Interview with alumna Mari Genova: Designing a face mask with a high level of filtration

Mari Genova is an alumna of Industrial Design Engineering (IDE) - the Hague University of Applied Sciences. She is passionate about contributing to a regenerative future, working on wicked problems and designing with respect to nature and humans.

Mari Genova

Mari did her graduation internship with the Centre of Expertise Mission Zero. Her graduation project was to design a circular face mask that could protect the user from COVID-19 while being environmentally friendly. 

Throughout the process, she was guided by Satish Beella (Industrial Design Engineering Lecturer) and Bas van den Berg (Mission Impact Lecturer, educational director at Mission Zero). Currently, Mari continues working as a junior designer/researcher for Mission Zero.
Face mask with a high level of filtration

How did you get involved with the Centre of Expertise Mission Zero?

“At the end of my second year at IDE, I was looking for an internship as my goal was to gain work experience. I found out about the Centre of Expertise Mission Zero through IDE’s Instagram page, where job vacancies are shared with students. When I read more about the centre of expertise, I felt excited because my vision of the future was fully aligned with theirs: “To create an economy entirely fuelled by sustainable energy and renewable resources and materials”. 

Minors Mission Impact and Design with nature

During her bachelor, she took the minors “Mission Impact” – led by Bas van den Berg - and “Design with Nature” coordinated by dr. ir. Laura Lee Stevens and specialised in sustainable and circular design and biomimicry. 

“My biomimicry journey began one and half years ago when I joined the minor Design with Nature. When I met dr. Laura Stevens, I got infected by her passion for biomimicry. She reintroduced me to the exciting world of biology and taught me how to apply the Biomimicry Design Thinking Framework, how to successfully translate the biological mechanisms into design language, and about the importance of considering the Life’s principles when designing. My favourite Life’s principles are Use readily available materials and energy; Cultivate cooporative relationships, and Replicate strategies that work. 

Dr. Laura Stevens continued to support me even after the minor was over and encouraged me to work on more biomimicry projects.” 

Graduation project: face mask with a high level of filtration

Mari has carried out her research presented in a paper (Designing a face mask with a high level of filtration) as her graduation thesis topic. 

“The article “Designing a face mask with a high level of filtration” is written in collaboration between Satish Beella, Bas van den Berg, Mark Leemhuis and myself. It introduces the problem of face masks polluting the environment, dives into the design process, presents the solution - MINI face mask, and discusses the following steps that has to be taken. 

As a designer, I can see many opportunities to implement Biomimicry in product design. Furthermore, Biomimicry could be applied in every work field (i.e., architecture, fashion, communication, etc.). Nowadays, we can see companies aiming to be sustainable and circular, and many of them are interested in working with Biomimicry specialists. I believe that this field will get more attention because it takes inspiration from 3.8 billion years of nature’s strategies to solve challenges. We can tackle problems without creating new ones by mimicking nature’s forms, processes, systems or following the Life Principles.” 

Mission Zero: Empowering learners to create a sustainable future 

“Mission Zero had an influenced on me both on a professional and personal level. On one hand, I feel motivated by the fantastic team of people I have the chance to work with. For a graduate student like myself, it is truly inspiring to see Mission Zero’s team trying to change and impact the circular economy, education, and businesses in the Netherlands. 

On the other hand, Mission Zero allowed me to develop my research, design, and communicational skills. Moreover, Bas van den Berg, with whom I have been working since last year, provided me with a safe space to experiment and sometimes fail. In addition, the centre of expertise introduced me to a great network of people and made my work visible to the world. 

“I believe that young people, like myself, are rarely provided with similar opportunities, and I acknowledge that this would have never been possible if I was not part of the Centre of Expertise Mission Zero.”