Announcing our bold, new campaign: "Cellular Agriculture for the Public Good."

My Story as a Fellow

Published December 15, 2023 | Updated December 19, 2023 | Stephanie Kawecki,

Tomorrow, if everything goes as planned, I’ll officially earn my PhD in bioengineering.

It all began when in 2017 when I was deciding on a research topic to pursue for graduate school. I wanted to channel my childhood passions and interests into a meaningful research career. Having been an active member of animal rights organizations and a vegetarian since the 4th grade, it hit me: what if we could use tissue engineering strategies to grow animal tissue in a lab for food consumption? It was brilliant! Why did I not think of this sooner?!

My mind flooded with questions about how to make this possible. Would I be able to find a professor who would work with me? How would I fund this research? I took a deep breath and resorted to a quick Google search to see if anyone else had thought about this concept before. And just like that, the top search hit popped up: “New Harvest Conference 2017, Experience Cellular Agriculture”.

Within a few minutes of conceptualizing the idea of cultured meat I saw that this is actually an existing field with a name, and a community, and everything! Even more exciting, a non-profit called New Harvest was already actively working to make this vision a reality. It was in that moment that I began my uphill climb towards becoming a cultured meat researcher and New Harvest was with me to achieve this goal every step of the way.

I reached out to volunteer at the New Harvest 2017 conference to immerse myself in the space. I met so many great people working in the field and collected a bunch of pamphlets and conference materials to bring back home.

Meanwhile, I cold emailed professors asking if they would be interested in working with me on cultured meat research. I got a few replies that were mostly no’s, but to my luck, Professor Amy Rowat at UCLA responded with interest given her background in biophysics, cell biology, and food science. We agreed to meet and I brought along all my New Harvest 2017 conference materials. I remember seeing her face light up when I showed her the existing research and possibilities that were emerging in the field of cellular agriculture. Having the ability to tell her I could be fully funded if I received a New Harvest Fellowship is what I feel sealed the deal. We got to work right away.

In 2019, I was thrilled to officially become a New Harvest Research Fellow. Having been the only cultured meat researcher in my lab, the global research network provided to me through New Harvest was invaluable and truly accelerated my research working on customizing scaffolds for muscle and fat to engineer marbled cultured meat.

This is a key part of making 3D cultured meat like steaks! 

From a New Harvest 2017 conference volunteer (top left) to  accomplishing my goal of presenting my research at New Harvest 2022 (bottom right). Along the journey I had the opportunity to be a part of the New Harvest 2019 conference planning committee (top right), and the great privilege of being awarded a New Harvest Fellowship.

Since I began, the Rowat lab has been awarded millions in funding for cultured meat research including government grants from the NSF, USDA, and the State of California.

Our lab has grown and supported over a dozen cultured meat researchers.

We have built collaborations with other labs on campus and across other universities—including labs which had not previously worked on projects within the field of cellular agriculture—and are continuing to build a network of cultured meat researchers at UCLA. I have become a cell ag leader on campus having started a GFI Alt Protein Project chapter to bring together other students that are interested in the field.

New Harvest is the catalyst that started it all. 

They are dedicated ecosystem builders. They embark on that uphill journey beside you and pave the path to make things easier for those who follow.

Along the way, you become an integral part of a collaborative community, working together with a global network of incredible people to truly make a difference. Undoubtedly, it has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.

A huge THANK YOU to New Harvest and all of its supporters. I can confidently say that I would not be where I am today without you all, and for that, I am forever grateful.

My next goal is to pay it forward by continuing important work to advance the field of cellular agriculture. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.


Stephanie Kawecki (almost*) Ph.D.
UCLA, Rowat Lab

*Cross your fingers with me that my committee members approve my PhD!

About the Authors
Stephanie Kawecki