Emma van der Leest

A rigoureus biodesigner, propelled by entrepreneurship and tenacity tuned to a bright vision of the future.

Emma van der Leest (1991) is an award-winning biodesigner, researcher, teacher and author based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. She has experience in the field of biodesign for more than 8 years where she collaborated with disciplines, including international scientists, physicists, artists and designers.

Biodesign, which is based on the principles of biofabrication, is a field that emerged out of regenerative medicine technologies. Biodesign incorporates living organisms e.g. bacteria, fungi, algae or cells into the design process. By discovering materials and processes, that nature has designed but hasn’t patented, we can search for new materials that are grown completely compostable and minimize the use of hazardous resources that cause huge damage to our ecosystem.

Through her strong design, Emma has a compelling story. Trained as a product designer Emma completed her undergraduate degree in Product Design at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam in 2015 (cum laude). She creates crossovers with craft, scientific research and new production techniques. Emma is trying to create an environment where boundaries dissolve, where different disciplines can benefit and learn from others.

Emma interned at Biocouture London, the world’s first bio creative consultancy, and is product associate of the annual Biofabricate conference in New York, an initiative from Suzanne Lee.

Emma is tutor and (former) interim pathway leader at Ecology Futures Master program at Master Institute of Visual Cultures from St. Joost Academy (Avans) and is guest lecture at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China. Previously she  taught at Central Saint Martins London, Design Academy Eindhoven and had a research position at the Willem de Kooning where she also started to develop a biolab.

Together with curator William Myers and team she curates exhibitions under the name of Museum of 21st Century Design. In 2022 for the Dutch Innovation Pavilion at the Floriade and in 2023 an exhibition at Boijmans van Beuningen Depot in Rotterdam.

Emma is the founder and ambassador-in-the-field of BlueCity Lab. A biocircular playground for bioneers in Rotterdam. They support the transition towards a biocircular economy by facilitating a platform & labspace for a growing community of bioneers that establish examples for a regenerative economy within the planetary boundaries by doing and experimenting.

Currilum Vitae