student image

Photo by Matt D’Annunzio

Emily Merfeld ’16

biology - psychology

Hometown: Belmont, Massachusetts

Who I was when I got to Reed: I had wanted to go into fashion or graphic design, but the year before I entered college I got more interested in science. I took an incredible neuroscience class that I loved, and found people who really valued learning.  Suddenly my nerdy qualities felt more like things to be embraced than hidden.

Influential books: 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami), the Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowling), and The Road (Cormac McCarthy) all taught me about finding beauty in imperfect worlds. I have always tried to live in a way where happiness is not completely dependent on circumstances.

Professors: Relationships with professors really defined my experience at Reed. Without them I don’t think I’d know that I like cell biology or aspects of neuroscience.

Outside the classroom: A good way to get perspective is doing service work off campus. SEEDS (Community Service Office) was a big part of my life. I’ve been an intern, led orientation odysseys, coordinated blood drives, and worked with Books to Prisoners. I also mentored fifth and sixth graders, learned to rock climb, trained and raced with a dragon boating team, and went to the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego.

How Reed changed me: Reed fostered my love of science and made me realize how exciting research can be. These past four years have pushed me to question, to seek help from others, to consider many possible answers, and to generally to live with curiosity. I’ve also learned how to consider other people’s perspectives, and know when to listen versus expressing my own opinion.

Word to prospies: Until I got here, I thought of science as answering questions. But more than half the battle is coming up with the questions and then figuring out how to address them. There’s always a logical path you’re following based on a huge scope of literature. Each paper is a small step forward. Most great questions come from reading a paper and thinking, “I wish they had done this test or answered this question.” That allows you to move forward a little bit, instead of waking up in the middle of the night with an aha! moment.

Thesis: Action of Cytoskeletal Crosslinking Proteins in Nuclear Positioning and Movement

What it’s about: My thesis seeks to determine whether cytoskeletal crosslinking proteins (proteins that bind actin and microtubules) contribute to the positioning of the nucleus in intracellular space, which may ultimately affect cellular shape and migration.

What it’s really about: How the nucleus moves, and why it matters.

What’s next: I will be working in a neuroscience lab at Harvard University for two years and then going to grad school.