At age 13, San Diego native Emily Tianshi stumbled onto a scientific “aha!” moment on the grounds of Torrey Pines State Preserve while enjoying one of her family’s regular nature hikes.
Observing that the seaside park’s scrubby, iconic Torrey Pine trees (a critically endangered and, in fact, rarest pine in North America) had puddles of water collecting under them despite otherwise dry conditions, she gathered a $20 microscope and “some random trinkets,” converting her suburban garage into a makeshift lab.
“I just took some needles home and started prodding around,” says Tianshi, now an 18-year-old freshman at Stanford University. “I really did not think it would become a long-term project.”
That project begun as an eighth-grader led her to win local science fairs and earned her scholarship prizes at statewide and national STEM events. Today, the young nature-lover wants to put her findings to work combating global water shortages caused by climate change and inspire fellow Gen Z-ers to conduct their own “garage-lab research” for solutions to the devastating effects of an ever-warming planet.
Emily’s curiosity-borne quest unfolds in Generation Impact: The Scientist, a short film directed by award-winning filmmaker Stephanie Wang-Breal and produced by Culture House. The third in a series of short documentary films by the Garage by HP, Generation Impact spotlights remarkable young people using technology to make the world a better place.