Meet Gique Emma Feshbach

MIT '15, Ballerina, Painter, and Mechanical Engineer

Emma works at the MIT CityFarm, which designs soil-free urban farming systems capable of producing affordable and high-quality food in the heart of our future cities.  

Here's what she has to say about being a gique:

"Although I came to MIT to study neuroscience, I ended up majoring in mechanical engineering. My freshman year I took a two product design classes through the mechanical engineering - one was on toy design! It made me realize how the major was the intersection of my two passions: art and problem solving. 

Fast forward a few years and I’m finished up my undergraduate thesis at the MIT Media Lab with a project called MIT CityFARM. MIT CityFARM is looking to revolutionize farming using hydroponics and aeroponics, two methods of growing plants in a soilless environment with atomized nutrients. The technologies themselves have amazing potential- not only for improving crop yields and reducing water consumption but also for growing food in cities.

I became interested in urban agriculture after I moved to Boston for college. I grew up in the Bay Area, enjoying year round fresh produce and farming in my own backyard. After my first east coast winter, I realized the current agricultural system in the United States is unsustainable, plagued by long-haul fuel costs, environmental contamination, and massive food waste.

The research at CityFARM works on solving these issues through controlled environment agriculture, using open-source technology, data-driven optimization, and networked sensing. As a mechanical engineer, I love the interdisciplinary nature of these problems. Tasting the fresh produce at CityFARM really motivates me on a daily basis- right now we are growing lots of delicious broccoli, swiss chard, basil, and tomatoes. We’re also experimenting with cotton! My own thesis is about finding an open-source hardware model for agriculture. It’s inspired by past open-source technologies like the RepRap 3D printer and Linux operating system.

Being a gique is about seeing the interconnectedness of all disciplines. I can find myself immersed in a problem set for my robotics class and then spend the rest of the day doodling. Painting and ballet have been my two outlets at MIT, but I also love thinking about their relatedness to the field that I study- whether it’s the turbulence of my watercolors or physics of my pirouettes.

My words of wisdom- Don’t be afraid of failure. 

And find your comfort zone, then go beyond it. I’ve always believed in taking lots of risk. Whether that means traveling to a foreign country, taking on a new hobby, or trying out a recipe, life is the adventure we have the power to create."