OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Faculty Profile: Sara Robinson

Sara (Seri) Robinson uses fungi to create art. Actually, she creates art through spalting, the coloration of wood caused by a fungus. One of the newest members of the College of Forestry (CoF), Seri is the Assistant Professor for Anatomy of Renewable Materials (RM) within the Wood Science & Engineering (WS&E) department, and is a key player in the research and development of wood spalting.

"It's a field that no one else is in; it's all new. Even mistakes are good because you are learning something new," Seri explains. "And it's pretty!" she adds brightly.

Professor of wood anatomy is not Seri's only job title; she is also an artist. Her job is extremely unique in that it integrates design and art with science.

"I strive to not be 'just' an artist or 'just' a scientist, but to blur the line between the two disciplines," Seri says.

Interestingly enough, Seri did not always intend to study wood science. She received a B.S. in Criminal Justice/Art & Design-Woodworking from Northern Michigan University in 2003 and joined the Peace Corps Master's International Program. She tried traveling to Nepal for her Peace Corps service, but was unable to complete the trip because of the Nepalese Civil War. So she finished her M.S. in Forest Science (Wood Science) at Michigan Technological University. After teaching English for a year in Thailand, Seri returned to Michigan Tech to earn a Ph.D. in Forest Science (Wood Science) in 2010.

Last January, Seri moved to Corvallis to work in the department of WS&E. So far she enjoys the OSU campus, the flexibility of her position, and the big wood shop where she creates unique art with a wood lathe. The small size and friendly atmosphere of the college are a bonus!

"When you're a small college like this, you know everyone," Seri remarks. "Students don't tend to fall through the cracks as much."

When Seri is not teaching or in the lab, she is traveling! She has lived in Ireland, Germany, Thailand and Canada, and has visited England, Wales, Scotland, France, Turkey, Peru, Mexico, Cambodia, Burma, China, Sweden and Australia. Next year she plans on traveling to Estonia for an art show. Seri speaks fluent English and German, and is functional in speaking Thai, Japanese, and Chinese. After visiting so many different countries, Seri is somewhat of a food connoisseur and boasts of an impressive list of "strange meats" that she has eaten including kangaroo, guinea pig, rat (on a stick!), dog, cat, duck, rabbit, horse, and insects such as crickets, cock roaches, and worms.

"I will try any food once," Seri declares in all seriousness.

So what does this world traveling, insect eating artist/scientist enjoy most about Corvallis?

"I like the bike lanes because I roller skate and I like the running trails and the roller park," she replies.

Seri loves roller derby and is a member of the Dolls of Anarchy, a team affiliated with the Cherry City Derby Girls. But it is her love of wood working, art and design that
ultimately led her to where she is today.

"Students with a passion for the outdoors and hiking may find the CoF to be the right fit for them," Seri notes. In particular, "students with a passion for wood working, ceramics, art and design may be interested in WS&E." Seri's advice to students is to, "Have passion. Nothing else matters," she affirms. "The best part about graduating with a degree in forestry or WS&E is that students can get paid to do what they love."