Val grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, where she enjoyed collecting critters in the woods and windsurfing at the beach. An analysis of her early drawings reveals her interest in designing vehicles for insects. At the age of eleven, she constructed a wind-powered car for her pet lizard, Nini, who did not enjoy the maiden voyage down the driveway. Val continued to explore the intersection of technology and biology during her graduate school training in the Zoology program at Duke University, eventually constructing bird replicas and robotic lizards to examine the influence of predators on the communication behavior of Anolis lizards. She currently lives in Florida where she writes, manages an online store for a watersports company, surfs, rides a funny-looking recumbent bicycle, and, fortunately for the lizards on her property, just snaps their photographs.