The Xylom Illustration

Hong Kong rarely has cold spells, but 2019 was shaping to be a chilly and combustible year. Anti-government protesters have grown increasingly agitated, while unchecked police force has led to widespread international condemnation. Two university campuses have literally gone up in flames, the sieges leading to an unprecedented cooling of international relations and US sanctions. The University of Hong Kong’s (HKU) historic campus, where Dr. Karen Mak serves as a Lecturer, was thankfully spared aside from a few skirmishes. …


The Atlanta Science Festival is Reshaping How the South talks STEM

Past, present and future collide in the City of Atlanta. (Alex Ip, Georgia State University/The Xylom Illustration)

This story has been donated to the Atlanta History Center’s Corona Collective.

This story is dedicated to the memory of Rep. John Lewis (1940–2020). His District, encompassing all the locations featured in the story, is our District. He fought for the dignity of all, insisted on the transformational impact of education, and set an example for a new generation of leaders to dream big and make good trouble.

A few miles away from the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where the President would be grappling with the fallout of COVID-19 for the first time, a time…


喺太平洋嘅另一邊,我搵到我嘅家

哥斯達黎加並不是波多黎各。

我喺哥斯達黎加遇見嘅第一個人提我千祈唔好撈亂呢兩個地方。雖然兩地人民都熱愛 reggaeton 音樂, 前者係一個位處中美洲嘅主權國,後者係一個隸屬美國嘅自治邦,至今仍然未走出天災人禍嘅陰霾:2017年,颶風艾瑪同埋瑪利亞侵襲,造成超過三千人死亡;2019年爆出嘅Telegram門 (Telegramgate) 引起大規模示威,最終逼使時任總督下台。

哥斯達黎加並不是拉斯維加斯。

對唔住呀媽,但係哥斯達黎加真係唔係喺沙漠入面㗎。雖然佢俾國家地理雜誌選為全世界其中一個最快樂嘅國家,但係佢哋快樂嘅源頭絕對唔係黃賭毒,反而係 Pura Vida (直譯為純生活嘅一種生活態度)、壯麗奇觀、同埋首屈一指嘅生物多樣性。

哥斯達黎加並不是香港,亦不是美國。

當我孓然一身喺太平洋嘅另一 …


On the other side of the Pacific, I have found my home.

Costa Rica is not Puerto Rico. The first person I met in Costa Rica reminded me not to mix up the two places. Despite their alleged shared affinity of reggaeton, the former is a Central American sovereign nation, the latter an unincorporated territory of the United States still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Maria and political turmoil brought by Telegramgate.

Costa Rica is not Las Vegas. Contrary to my mom’s repeated insistence, Costa Rica is not located in the Mojave. It has been named by National Geographic as one of the happiest nations of the world, not because of…


Meet the Young Men and Women Fighting for Nature, One Meme at a Time

For Richard “Rhett” Barker, it must have been the moth memes.

“Memes about moths were trending across the internet, and we decided we would pretend that the Wild Green Memes page had been taken over by moths,” recalls Barker, then a recent graduate of the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville, FL, and the founder-moderator of the Facebook group Wild Green Memes for Ecological Fiends. …


Interview with Dr. Carl Safina

Photo by Ilse Orsel on Unsplash

You’ll usually find Carl Safina somewhere near New York.

A native son of the Empire State, Safina is the Inaugural Holder of the Endowed Chair for Nature and Humanity at Stony Brook University. The nonprofit Safina Center, where he is the Founding President, is a half-hour walk up north by northeast at nearby Setauket, NY. In his illustrious career as ecologist and writer, educator and advocate, New York is where the MacArthur, Pew and Guggenheim Fellow has left most of his mark. This is a story of how it all happened.

The Sea and Sky that Never Sleeps

The source of rolling rivers and raging seas is…


New name, same vision

“closed blue wooden door” by matthew Feeney on Unsplash

Dear all,

Over the past six months, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with scientists all over the world to showcase their personal, authentic stories outside of their research. Every day I wake up with joy and energy, knowing how we could impact and change the world, one story at a time.

At this time, our identity is evolving:


A recap of what happened after a whirlwind September (no pun intended)

“close-up photography of black metal gears” by Isis França on Unsplash

Dear all,

Hope y’all are safe. Unless you have been living in a hole the past month, both the US and Southeast Asia have experienced record storms to devastating effect. I believe in our resilience, and most importantly, the role our scientists could play in our quest to combat extreme climate events. That’s why we’re here: to help connect common people and researchers.

Again, unless you have lived in a hole, you should’ve known what happened in the past month:

  • The Back to School Back-to-back by Professor Hon-ming Lam has successfully concluded. Read Part 1 and Part 2 here:
  • Toby…


“tree swing on hill during daytime” by Ryan Parker on Unsplash

Dear all,

tl;dr: We are putting our new content behind a paywall, but we will allow exclusive free access through links posted on our social media handles.

My vision for The Xylem is not just as a site for scientists to submit their personal, authentic stories outside of their research, but as a startup, a place to connect normal people with scientists. This means that The Xylem has to explore a sustainable business model. Getting income provides valuable capital for The Xylem to do the following things:

  • Buying the necessary software/ services to produce quality content
  • Navigating complex legal procedures…


English Translation of Professor Hon-ming Lam’s article on 20 April 2012

This article is first published in Traditional Chinese on Facebook here and subsequently republished as part of the book “Professor’s Notes — Teaching, Research, School” in 2016. Part 1 can be found here.

A former student called me his “mentor” on Facebook; although I don’t deserve the recognition, I was indeed proud for quite a few days. The traditional Chinese education mission of teaching lifelong lessons, imparting knowledge and untangling questions has reduced to giving out knowledge, even a tool for awarding degrees. It’s hard for a student to cherish the care from their teachers growing up.

Settling down and…

Alex Ip

The time is always right to do what is right. Founder of @thexylom. https://about.me/alexip718

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