30 under 30: An MRI Researcher with a Passion for Teaching

Meet Merideth Frey, 27, one of the up-and-coming physicists attending this year's Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
American physicist Merideth Frey

Courtesy Merideth Frey

The annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting brings a wealth of scientific minds to the shores of Germany’s Lake Constance. Every summer at Lindau, dozens of Nobel Prize winners exchange ideas with hundreds of young researchers from around the world. Whereas the Nobelists are the marquee names, the younger contingent is an accomplished group in its own right. In advance of this year’s meeting, which focuses on physics, we are profiling several promising attendees under the age of 30. The profile below is the 15th in a series of 30.

Name: Merideth Frey
Age: 27
Born: Gilroy, Calif.
Nationality: U.S.

Current position: Ph.D. student, Yale University
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College; master’s degree from Yale University

What is your field of research?
I work in nuclear magnetic resonance and am developing a new way of imaging solids using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

What drew you to physics, and to that research area in particular?
I read The Whole Shebang by Timothy Ferris in high school and was mesmerized by the wonders of quantum mechanics and cosmology and just knew I had to study physics. The fact that the natural world could be understood so well and yet still yield so many surprises made me yearn to understand as much as I could. My current area of research attracted me because I would be able to apply the weirdness of quantum mechanics to help solve a long-standing problem in a scientific field that was completely new to me (MRI of solids). I love discussing research with scientists in different disciplines and learning from everyone’s different viewpoints in order to tackle complicated scientific problems.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I hope to be a tenured professor at a liberal arts institution in 10 years. I really enjoy sharing my love of physics through teaching and mentoring future scientists. For research, I would like to use my physics knowledge as a tool to tackle biomedical problems from another angle.

Who are your scientific heroes?
Lise Meitner—an amazing physicist who persevered against all odds and sadly never received the recognition she deserved; Edward Purcell – a physicist known for his many contributions to a wide array of physics disciplines as well as being a valued mentor and scientific adviser.

What activities outside of physics do you most enjoy?
Playing clarinet and piano, designing and creating pop-up cards for family and friends.

What do you hope to gain from this year’s Lindau meeting?
I love being around physicists because they are so excited to share their enthusiasm for their work, and I am no exception. I am enthralled by each experiment I hear about and get energized each time I talk about my own projects. My current research has many potential applications that span a variety of scientific fields, so I am particularly interested to see what new applications and collaborations will materialize by discussing my work with top scientists from all over the world. I am also very interested in science education and communication and am eager to ask Nobel laureates their thoughts on improving science education and discussing how science can be better communicated to the public.

Are there any Nobelists whom you are particularly excited to meet or learn from at Lindau?
For my own enrichment, I look forward to meeting Paul Crutzen and Mario Molina to learn more about their work on ozone depletion and studying global warming. This is such an important issue now, and it will be inspiring to learn from the best in the field. For my own research, I am excited to meet Kurt Wuthrich, who developed very important methods in nuclear magnetic resonance that I hope to employ in my future research. For my interests in science communication, I look forward to talking with Sir Harold Kroto to learn about his work communicating science to the public via science films through the Vega Science Trust that he started.

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30 Under 30:
Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
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