Category: Student Profiles

2 Minutes With … Nick Vaporciyan: Exploring history via quantum physics

Nick Vaporciyan ’21 poses for a photo in the Mudd Library.
Nick Vaporciyan ’21 took his physics education in an unexpected direction when he began doing research for a book project with Associate Professor of Physics Megan Pickett.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Nick Vaporciyan ’21 spent a memorable 10 weeks on campus over the summer. The Lawrence junior did physics research assisting Associate Professor of Physics Megan Pickett with her forthcoming book, which will tell the history of quantum physics through largely forgotten, old or overlooked narratives.

“It’s very easy to find these giants of modern science that everyone knows about who are in every physics textbook,” Vaporciyan says. “Their stories have been told countless times. But it’s very neat and difficult to find these smaller stories that are no less interesting, and even no less significant in some cases.”

He references a particular story he found about Sir George Gabriel Stokes, the man who first investigated fluorescents and learned they’re caused by ultraviolet light. This work is the foundation for a technique called laser pulling that led to our ability to build quantum computers today.

“It’s a pretty obscure connection,” he says. “Most people who have taken quantum physics know how laser pulling works, but the history underlying when we first began to investigate that is not well known. So, it was very cool for me to find that out.”

The process

While most other students were doing hands-on physics research in a lab, Vaporciyan found himself happily hunkered down in the library.

“It was actually a lot of fun for me because I hadn’t done book research in quite a while,” he says. “It renewed my interest in more historical aspects of science that sort of get pushed by the wayside when you’re doing all the technical work in your classes.”

Vaporciyan had to turn away from physics textbooks for this research. The vast history of physics reaches far back in time and includes a multitude of cultures; much of this knowledge doesn’t enter into the mainstream physics consciousness.

What lies ahead

Vaporciyan’s travels through physics history rekindled his love for the subject.

“You just sort of get swept away,” he says. “It’s really fascinating to see how interconnected some of these things really are historically, not only on a technical level.”

Underlying the science and history, it was also the pedagogical aspect at the core of Pickett’s book that had him hooked. Though he’s not planning on a career in teaching, he’s very interested in education. Participating in the making of a resource for physics — especially one that takes such a different approach — combined his interests.

There’s still much to be discovered. Though the summer research has ended, Vaporciyan will continue investigating the topic for his Chandler Senior Experience.

He’s earning his physics degree through the 3-2 cooperative degree program, which will transfer him after three years to an accredited engineering school for two years to also obtain an electrical engineering degree.

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Jasaad Graves: Artwork to inspire in a space where bonds are built

Jasaad Graves ’20 stands next to the artwork he created for the Diversity and Intercultural Center, located in Memorial Hall. The artwork features portraits of inspiring figures, including Maya Angelou.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

The Diversity and Intercultural Center (DIC) is a favorite space on the Lawrence University campus for Jasaad Graves ’20.

 “The space is usually where I come to do my art,” said Graves, a studio art major from Columbus, Georgia.

Thus, it was an ideal connection when the DIC received a grant to revamp the space to better represent and connect with the students who regularly spend time there. 

Graves created a series of portraits featuring people of color who have been important to the students of color who use the DIC space in Memorial Hall — Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, and Nelson Mandela, among others.

“I felt like it was needed,” said Graves. “I felt like we needed something, even if it wasn’t done by me, I felt like we needed something done by the students, just to help represent the people who are constantly in the space and value the space.” 

For the love of art

The DIC project is a continuation of the creative journey Graves started long before he got to Lawrence.

“I started drawing from a very young age,” said Graves. “I probably decided I like drawing around first grade, maybe.  But I decided to start taking it serious around fifth grade.”  

Graves has been featured in various galleries on campus including the Black Student Union’s Cultural Expressions Art Show and exhibitions in the Wriston Art Center.

With Graves always being in the DIC creating art, the staff didn’t have to look far to select the student they wanted to create art for the space.  

“We were looking for a Lawrence student of color to help make the DIC an inclusive and empowering space by creating art of people who students of color feel inspired by,” said Adona Lauriano ’21, student resource coordinator at the DIC. “Out of all the people we interviewed, Jasaad’s portfolio revealed he had what it took to pull off an amazing job.”

Connections beyond art

Graves is a defensive end and captain on the Lawrence University football team, and he’s an active member of the Black Student Union (BSU) and Brother to Brother, both student organizations.

He said he puts an emphasis on showing leadership when fostering important connections with students of color across campus.  

“In everything I listed, they all kind of serve as a safe haven for members of the color community on campus here at Lawrence,” said Graves. “Even on the football team, a majority of our players come from all kinds of different backgrounds.”  

What’s next?

The senior would like to continue creating art in some form after he leaves Lawrence. 

“I’ve always wanted to go into product design,” said Graves. “I know since I’ve been here, I’ve focused a lot more on portraiture and graphite and marker drawings. So hopefully I’ll be making more of a push toward digital art and things like that.” 

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Phoebe Eisenbeis: Proudly connected to the earth

Phoebe Eisenbeis works in the SLUG garden and orchard on campus.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Phoebe Eisenbeis ’21 is an advocate for the natural world both in and out of the classroom. As an environmental science major and a gardener in SLUG (Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens), her life at Lawrence University is deeply rooted in the earth.

Phoebe has always been intrigued by gardening and the environment. She recalls visiting farms on school field trips and going to farm camp in her home state of Minnesota, where she got to experience typical farm chores.

A new hobby blooms

It all came together at the outset of her freshman year at Lawrence when she learned about SLUG. The campus organization’s beliefs in inclusivity and sustainability were a good fit for her.

“I felt a really immediate connection to it.” says Phoebe. “Like, this is so cool that this is on campus and that it’s kind of open to everyone.”

SLUG encourages all Lawrence students to come to garden hours to help out regardless of their gardening experience. It’s all about the community effort to sustainably and interactively grow food and learn more about the earth in the process.

Phoebe started going to SLUG meetings and soon signed up for garden hours. It wasn’t long before her academics in environmental science began to nourish her gardening interest.

“The thing I feel almost drawn to about environmental studies in general is the aspect of sustainability and self-reliance, and a tight-knit understanding and relationship with the natural world,” Phoebe explains. “I feel like they’re really correlated for me to go deeper into my understanding of how the garden works.”

SLUG is also a place for personal growth. The garden supports Phoebe’s personal beliefs in sustainability and living connected to nature.

“As it is right now, the garden embodies a lot of my beliefs of getting people outside and interacting with the food, and how the food they eat grows and how to harvest it.”

Growing her passion

For Phoebe, the key is to strengthen her understanding of gardening with her knowledge of environmental science.

“I feel like if you just want to garden and be outside and do all those things, that’s wonderful and great in its own way, but I also want to supplement it with academics.”

As Phoebe continues to work with SLUG, she hopes to ensure the garden’s future with more students getting involved and in touch with their food and their world.

“I feel really passionately about making sure the garden continues for generations,” she says. “Something I want to bring out about it more in my time, as I maybe will get to be a leader in the garden, or just as I get older and know the garden more, is to make it more accessible and more widely known. Just that anybody can do it and be a part of it.”

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Liam Wulfman: Where everybody knows your name

Liam Wulfman is one of the student managers of the Viking Room.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Many people dream of one day running a business. This dream doesn’t typically include co-managing a night spot on your college campus during your junior year. For Liam Wulfman, however, this is reality.  

“I couldn’t imagine doing another job. Everything just seems kind of boring in comparison,” Liam says of his work at the Viking Room (VR), Lawrence University’s on-campus gathering place that first opened in 1969. 

The VR is located in the basement of Memorial Hall, a casual hangout for faculty, staff and students who are 21 or older, mostly staffed by students.

The Viking Room was managed by an outside company until recently. Now it is student run (plus a faculty advisor). Liam and three other students manage the place that has been part of the fabric of the Lawrence community for five decades.  

“We run everything, basically,” Liam says. “Operationally, we are pretty self-sufficient. Other than one faculty (advisor), it’s all student run. It’s pretty crazy. It’s weird and it’s exciting.” 

Liam is in charge of a full staff, creates work schedules with other managers, and ensures the Viking Room is running smoothly and responsibly at all times.  

“My first shift, I was carding,” he says, “It was pretty fun. They just told me, sit here, make sure no one under 21 comes in. Like, oh god, I was so afraid.” 

Building skills

Liam, a biology major who is part of Lawrence’s swimming and diving team, joined the VR staff near the end of his freshman year. 

“One of the people on the swim team worked at the bar. … She told me to apply.” 

As one might assume, now being responsible for the well-being of a fully functioning entertainment hangout while still in school is quite the challenge. Yet, as Liam gets more acclimated in his position, he is becoming more comfortable with his role as a manager and his need to juggle those duties with the demands of the classroom.  

“It’s been tough, but really rewarding,” he says. “Now I know the bar really well. I pride myself on knowing how to make the stereo work every time. If you flick it just the right way, it works.”  

He is even working to add features to improve the Viking Room experience.  

“Turning the VR into a place where people can have fun and enjoy new things,” Liam says. “I’m excited for the future of the VR.”  

Familiar faces

He says it’s fun to run a business on campus and have the opportunity to serve and work with familiar faces, including professors who sometimes come in as guest bartenders. 

“Working with professors is always super funny,” Liam says. “Especially if you have had the professor before.” They’re the experts in class but often not so skilled behind the bar. 

Having the opportunity to build management skills necessary to run a business while in college can be golden in the long run, a big selling point for someone who one day hopes to open his own brewery.

“There’s a big craze for microbrewers right now, so I’m waiting for it to die down and I’ll be the cool one to bring it back,” Liam says.

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Patrick Adu: Reviving the arts in his Sierra Leone homeland

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Sierra Leone was marred by an 11-year civil war from 1991 to 2002. In its wake, the war wiped out the country’s once-thriving theater culture. Seventeen years later, Lawrence University student Patrick Adu ’19 is leading the way to revive his country’s performing arts scene.

He’s starting Target Theatre, a nonprofit organization that aims to put public performances back on stages and reintroduce arts education in Sierra Leone’s schools.

A vibrant past

Prior to the civil war in Sierra Leone, theater was an essential medium for expressing views on a range of issues. No matter what the topic was, Patrick says theater was an integral part of people’s lives.

“(The impact) was very strong,” he says. “People loved it. People went to see it and get some information to take back home to create and start working on change.”

But the damage in the aftermath of the war was so immense that people forgot about plays. It was necessary to prioritize rebuilding roads, schools and hospitals. The performing arts were mostly pushed aside.

Now Patrick is bringing the former glory of Sierra Leone’s theater culture to the government’s attention with his plans for Target Theatre. He has communicated with some government officials who are ready to work with him. Other people back home are ready for the change, too, Patrick says. He receives encouraging social media engagement in response to his efforts.

“There are people who are very, very interested in reviving the arts there. They said, ‘We will work together and we’re happy you want to revive this stuff.’ So, I think I will have a good relationship and support from people back home.”

Beyond the stage

By reviving Sierra Leone’s theater culture, Target Theatre will create jobs and support the rising creative talents of the country’s youth.

Patrick explains the two primary steps that will guide his efforts: “Those performances, scripts, plays, should go back on stage. We want to revive the art of watching plays, actors acting in the entire country. And the second, to revive arts education. By that we can help youths. This is an ambitious project that has all these components, but we want to roll them out one step at a time.”

Equipped with his studies at Lawrence in theater arts and a passion for keeping theater alive around the world, Patrick plans on one day teaching theater arts at a university. But for now, Target Theatre has his full attention.

“It’s very important for arts education to come back to life,” he says.

If you’d like to support Patrick’s cause or find out more information, visit this link: www.gofundme.com/help-revive-theatre-in-sierra-leone

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Maria Poimenidou: LUCC leader looks to do ‘amazing things’

Maria Poimenidou ’20 is president of the LUCC.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Yes, running a student government — a $400,000 budget and oversight of all clubs, committees, and student-related activities on campus — can be a bit overwhelming. But Maria Poimenidou ’20 has it down to a science.

The Lawrence University biochemistry and economics double major from Thaso, Greece, says it’s all about staying organized and pushing past any fears or doubts.

“Whenever I am afraid of something, I force myself to do it,” she says. “I don’t want any fear I have to keep me from doing amazing things.” 

The Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) plays a huge role in decision making and oversight on campus. It operates as a shared governance council, meeting weekly and helping to shape campus climate. As president, Maria oversees all that activity.  

“The role of the president is overseeing all of that and keeping the big picture in mind and seeing how different things can occur through legislation or different events,” Maria says.    

Right at home

Maria was part of her student government in high school. When first coming to Lawrence from Greece, Maria became a freshman class representative as a way to make Lawrence “feel more like home.”  

Her role in LUCC then evolved from a way to make friends and get involved to finding a way to make positive change on campus. 

“I remember going to general council and not knowing what was happening,” Maria says. “Over the years that changed, I started to see things that can be improved.”

Maria stayed on the council as a sophomore class representative, then was elected vice president, then president.  

Maria has kept a can-do mindset throughout her LUCC journey. Leading up to her position as president, she ran for various offices a total of five times. She keeps running and stays involved because she is determined to create positive change on campus, she says. It’s only a few months into her presidency, but she’s already increased student engagement and improved the function of LUCC committees by creating a cabinet position that focuses on that.

Be calm, stay organized

As one can imagine, being a student — a double major, no less — and running the LUCC is a full load. We asked Maria for five tips on handling a busy schedule:  

1: Do not be afraid to ask for help.

2: Prioritize what is important.

3: Create a schedule, and follow it.

4: Listen to yourself.

5: Take time for you.  

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … De Andre King: Turntable, headphones and a desire to entertain

De Andre King poses for a photo in the Lawrence radio station studio.
De Andre King ’20 has channeled his love of music into a DJ’ing enterprise called King SZN.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Being entrusted with the aux cord in any situation is an honor, but to be trusted with controlling the music at almost every campus event is a sign of huge respect … and talent.

De Andre King ’20 has gone from being an Aux at small-scale Lawrence University fraternity parties to launching a DJ’ing enterprise, King SZN, that has him traveling the Midwest. 

Music for the computer science major from New York City is never far away.

“That’s one of the first things I check for when I leave my room, my headphones,” he says. 

De Andre’s passion for music started young. He recalls listening to WWPR-FM 105.1 in NYC while on the school bus. Coming from both New York City and a Caribbean household, different styles and genres of music have always been present in his life.

Filling a void

That passion for music followed him to Appleton, where he quickly created a platform to share his music with others on campus.

“My first weekend here, I remember calling my friends back home, ‘I DJ’d a party here on campus.’ I was really just using my phone. I had thought that was DJ’ing at the time.”  

It took off from there. Now, at almost every campus event you will see De Andre controlling the turntables. He’s also been a frequent voice on WLFM.

De Andre said he set out to fill a void after seeing “a need for actual disc jocking.” He watched YouTube videos, shadowed veteran DJs during their sets, and learned by trial and error.

“Mixing, blending, beating, matching, crowd control, energy, and overall passion of music,” he says of the learning process.

He has become an established name on campus. From hosting Lawrence’s first-ever Tailgate to Lawrence International’s annual Fall Formal, De Andre has filled the void he first noticed as a freshman. Today, he goes beyond the boundaries of Lawrence, creating his own brand with King SZN Enterprise, traveling and sharing his talent across the Midwest, and even performing on trips back to New York.

“It’s a blessing if you had asked freshman year Dre DJ’ing in Sig Ep,” he says. “… If you would have told him you are going to be doing gigs outside of Lawrence throughout the Appleton community, but also back home in New York, I would have been in disbelief.” 

He now spends most weekends traveling to host events at other schools. It’s a huge commitment, but he’s made it look effortless. He’s found his groove.

“Never really think about it, I just try and do,” he says.  

Take a spin

Looking for new music? You’re in luck, we asked De Andre to give us some of his favorite music to rock out to. 

Song on repeat: Hustle and Motivate, by Nipsey Hussle 

First favorite song: Rockin That Thang, by The-Dream 

Favorite gym song: Hustle and Ambition, by 50 Cent  

Favorite DJs: DJ ByFarMega, DJ TrueBlends , DJ Tech 12, DJ Iz Lit, DJ Jhasire Powell  

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Mads Layton: Fashion, theater passions merge backstage

Mads Layton works on a dress in the theater costume shop at Lawrence.
Mads Layton ’22 combines interests in fashion and live theater in the Lawrence costume shop. Here she works on a costume for “She Ventures and He Wins,” showing Thursday through Saturday at Stansbury Theater.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Have you enjoyed recent Lawrence theater productions such as Mass and Pippin? Perhaps you’ve wondered how those amazing costumes are created.

Mads Layton ’22 works in the costume shop; she’s here to take us inside and raise the curtain on the work she does to prepare for the shows we love.

The English major’s two greatest passions are fashion and live theater, so she’s a great fit for the costume shop. She started working there after Pippin ran its last show in the fall, sorting old costumes for washing and getting ready for an upcoming play on the bill, She Ventures and He Wins.

More on the Theatre Arts program at Lawrence here.

Initial decisions

Costuming normally begins after the cast has been determined and characters are developed. Before anything new is made, students pull what they can from a stock of costumes in storage. However, some productions like She Ventures and He Wins require large builds of new costumes. This calls for early preparations, such as a tailoring tutorial for waistcoats in winter term. Mads began work on the play shortly after she started working at the costume shop.

“Actually, the first thing I made was in preparation for this show because we knew it would be a really big build,” she says. “We didn’t have a lot of stuff from that time period, so they had us starting early.”

She made a skirt with box pleats, and 10 feet of box trim for one of the lead’s dresses.

She Ventures and He Wins, a Restoration-era comedy, will be presented this week. The show — and its spectacular costumes — will be on stage in Stansbury Theater at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Mads Layton works on the trim of a costume in the theater costume shop.
Mads Layton on putting her skills to work in the theater costume shop at Lawrence University: “I really enjoy doing detail work and hand-sewing, so I get a lot of hand-stitching of hems, as well as trims.”

Team effort

Students in the costume shop don’t tackle full garments alone. Instead they’re assigned tasks based on their skill level, and the garment is pieced together in the end.

Mads, who came to Lawrence from Mesa, Arizona, may be new to costume-making but she’s confident in the sewing abilities she learned from her mom, who taught her and her sisters at a young age.

“I really enjoy doing detail work and hand-sewing, so I get a lot of hand-stitching of hems, as well as trims,” she says. “Other than that, I’ve made a lot of skirts this year.”

For Mads, learning new ways to create garments is a perk of the job. She had never worked with pleats before, and now that dress is her favorite costume she’s worked on.

“I did seven or eight hours of just doing box pleats, and then I had to sew them on,” she says. “It’s just a beautiful dress. I have a little bit of an attachment to that one because I spent so much time on it.”

When the director delivers final notes on the costumes, and last alterations are made, it’s showtime. Mads has always supported the art form she loves, and working in the costume shop allows her to see her creative work in action onstage.

“I make sure to go to all the shows because I love live theater,” she says. “I think it’s important and wonderful.”

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes with … Sebastian Roman: Solving the math and music equation

Sebastian Roman holds his saxophone as he stands in front of a chalkboard full of math equations.
Sebastian Roman is studying math and music. They go together better than you might think.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

We like to think of math and music as insular communities of study. It’s easy to draw a hard line between what we see as “creative” and “not creative” and assume no interrelation. Math major and music minor Sebastian Roman ’19 embraces the unexpected harmony of studying these seemingly adverse fields.

The logical solution

For Sebastian, a saxophone player, it all comes down to logic. He works with math that is not computation, as math is commonly perceived, but the translation of very abstract concepts into simple, logical notations, called proofs. He believes the journey from problem to solution is the connection between math and music.

“When you write out a proof, just like how you write out a piece of music, there’s a story, there’s a development, there’s a conclusion,” he says. “You feel good afterwards. In the same way a proof is almost like a melody. There’s little aspects of it that work together.”

Channels for expression

It’s not just logic and hard lines. Sebastian values math and music together as important outlets of expression in his life.

“They’re both languages. You can learn that language with improvisation, logical resolutions and musical ideas, and express something within you that you couldn’t with words. In the same way with math, you can internalize all these logical methods of getting to an argument and express something that you can’t express with words.”

Math and music go hand in hand as outlets of creative expression. Math offers new experiences and insight that Sebastian says he expresses through his music. Being able to study both is one of the great draws of a Lawrence education, where the Conservatory of Music is part of the university.

“(Doing math) makes me a better musician in the sense that I’m learning more about myself and how to express myself and be a better person,” Sebastian says. “I’m gaining life experiences. And then when I go play the horn, I can express that stuff.”

More on Lawrence’s Mathematics offerings here and Conservatory of Music here

Balancing act

Sebastian is taking linear algebra, foundations of analysis and jazz improvisation II this term. Outside of class, he plays in Combo I and Latin Jazz Ensemble, takes jazz lessons with Jose Encarnacion, and tries to practice saxophone two to three hours a day. Yet he rarely feels overwhelmed.

“Sometimes I’d like to have more time doing music and sometimes I’d like to have more time doing math,” he says. “There’s not enough time. But I’m also a very social person and I like to hang out with people. Thankfully, math allows me to hang out with people and do homework.”

The two disciplines combine to make his learning journey whole, he says.

“If I’m doing math and not practicing, I’m getting better at music. If I’m playing music and not doing math as much, I’m getting better at math, in a weird kind of way. They help each other and they work together very well.”

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … George Mavrakis: YouTube, fish and a hobby gone wild

Lawrence University senior George Mavrakis feeds fish in an aquarium in his dorm room.
George Mavrakis ’19 tends to his fish in his Lawrence University dorm room. The LU economics major has built up a successful YouTube channel focused on coral fish.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21 

A lot of students have had a pet fish, but it is not every day someone can turn having a pet fish into the nation’s largest aquarium show and a YouTube channel with nearly 120,000 subscribers. Lawrence University’s George Mavrakis ’19 has done just that. 

“It was all about seeing what other people thought of my tank,” the Lawrence senior says. “I always wanted to show off my tank and see if other people think this is an awesome tank.”

It was. And they did. And a hobby focused on coral fish was about to explode.

George, an economics major from Golf, Illinois, who played on the LU basketball team, runs the YouTube channel CoralFish12g. He and a business partner have also launched Aquashella, an aquarium festival show that debuted first in Chicago last year and then Dallas earlier this year, drawing thousands of aquarium enthusiasts with a mix of fish, music and art.

Getting hooked

George went through 10 fish before he finally got the hang of things. In his defense, he was 14 and working with a much more difficult kind of fish than your standard gold fish — coral. There was much to learn about keeping salt water fish alive.

“YouTube, Google and books,” George says of his eight-year journey. “Like, my coral would die and I’d just be like, welp, it wasn’t calcium. Then I’d check that off, then my next coral would die, and I’d be like, well, it wasn’t calcium or the light. By trial and error, I taught myself to keep coral.” 

Then he set out to teach the rest of the world via YouTube.

His first videos were mostly just his tank. He eventually went in front of the camera, sharing knowledge on salt water aquatics through what he refers to as “infotainment.”

He found an audience, and now he has the biggest salt water aquarium channel on YouTube, making him the biggest salt water aquarium influencer, all operating out of a dorm room at Lawrence.

He traveled to Israel over holiday break with Facebook influencer Nas Daily. His 1-minute video has more than 3 million views.

Check out CoralFish12g, including the Nas Daily video, here.

Geoge Mavrakis poses in his Lawrence dorm room with his fish tanks and tech equipment.
George Mavakis’ YouTube channel, CoralFish12g, has nearly 120,000 subscribers.

He created Aquashella last year with a friend while studying abroad in London. They were both fans of aquarium festivals but wanted to launch one that infused art and music with the showing of the fish. Mission accomplished. More than 4,000 people showed up for an August 2018 show in Chicago, while 7,000 came out for an early spring show in Dallas. Chicago is again on the books for August 2019.

He tapped into skills learned through Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program. Balancing his coral fish hobby-turned-business with school has been a challenge, George says, noting he was “pulling more all-nighters” than desired and was giving up free time in pursuit of his fish adventures. The payoff, though, for all that hard work is on YouTube for all to see.

Sharing YouTube wisdom

Want to start a YouTube channel of your own? We asked George for four tips:

1: “Being different is better than being better.”

2: “Persistence is the key. It won’t happen overnight.”

3: “It’s a third luck, a third skill, and a third the quality of your content.” 

4: “Provide people with value.”  

Awa Badiane is a student writer in the Communications office.