Updated: Nov 9, 2021
Meredith is an award-winning Professor at Brown University in the Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences and in the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society. Her lab group measures nitrogen and other compounds in ice, ocean waters, and the atmosphere to link human activity with environmental impacts. Meredith received her undergraduate degree in marine science and chemistry, and a PhD in geosciences. During graduate school, she co-founded the Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN) and today serves as President of this amazing organization.
What is your favorite part of your job or STEM career?
I am most energized by my interactions with my research group. From undergraduate students to graduate students to postdoctoral scholars and technical staff, we collect and measure all kinds of environmental samples. Piecing together what the data means is definitely the highlight of my job week to week.
What's the best piece of career advice you've ever received?
Each time you say yes to something you should aim to be thinking about what you are replacing by taking on this new activity. I am still practicing this! On the whole, I am excited about so many things I am working on and the people I am interacting with, so I often find myself overwhelmed, having bitten off more than I can chew. But that advice was so solid and I do indeed aim to keep it in mind with each new opportunity that comes my way.
Tell us about a couple of favorite books, podcasts, TV shows, or movies.
The podcasts I am most often listening to are from National Public Radio – such as Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Fresh Air, and The Moth Radio Hour. Crime dramas on TV, in books, and on podcasts are a definite favorite… if I could find free streaming episodes of the original Law & Order I would probably re-watch all of them! Lately, I’ve found myself drawn to a number of different British crime dramas…they seem to always wrap everything up in the end, solving crimes and resolving relationship conflicts in a satisfying way that means I can move on to something else!
Tell us about a defining moment or turning point in your career.
I decided to pursue an internship the summer following my college graduation. Moving to a new city, meeting new people and working on very different research topics helped me really solidify my interests and my goals. Today I better recognize that pivots are necessary – whether because of a global pandemic (!) or because the norms of a scientific career path are not meshing for you and you need to make a change that works for you.
How have you overcome challenges in your education or career?
Certainly, I have to credit a lot of my own fortitude and courage in overcoming challenges, which was instilled in me by my parents/family and my upbringing. In terms of my career, particularly from graduate school on, I have to credit the incredible women of the ESWN community. Hearing the stories of how so many women have overcome different barriers and biases and have still pursued their goals with passion, with grit, with gratitude and in support of one another has been a consistent source of energy and inspiration.
When did you know you wanted to pursue STEM?
I often credit an 8th grade science teacher with inspiring my interest in Earth/environmental sciences. My teacher, Dr. Gottfried, was an oceanographer by training. When he explained principles in our physical science class by giving examples of things I could see around me in the world, I just couldn’t get enough! Applying physical and chemical understanding to explaining how the environment works really solidified my growing interest in chemistry and math.