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Profile: Meredith Calvert, PhD

Meredith Calvert, PhD, is the director of the Histology and Light Microscopy Core at the Gladstone Institutes. She joined Gladstone after running a similar core at the Temasek Lifesciences Laboratory in Singapore. [Photo: Chris Goodfellow, Gladstone Institutes]

What brought you to Gladstone?

For some years before coming here, I directed the Bioimaging and Biocomputing Core at the Temasek Lifesciences Laboratory in Singapore, where I had completed my postdoctoral work in mechanical cell biology. I loved working in the core, but I wanted to return to the United States to be closer to family. I was very excited to find the opportunity to join Gladstone and develop the microscopy facilities here, while working alongside world-class scientists.

What do you like about Gladstone?

The passion for scientific discovery here is infectious, and this makes the work much more meaningful and fun. I love working as part of a research core and assisting other scientists, because we often get to be involved in the “Eureka!” moment, which happens so frequently at Gladstone!

Were you interested in science as a child?

I was always interested in the natural world. I grew up in the United Kingdom, and the Natural History Museum in London was my favorite place as a child.

Why did you decide to go to graduate school?

I went to college at Reed College in Portland, where I did a research fellowship for my undergraduate thesis that used advanced microscopy to study the development of some bizarre marine worms. I designed the project myself, working independently, and I loved it. After graduating and working as a technician for a few years, I realized that to do meaningful independent research, I needed to get a PhD.

What or who influenced your decision to work in science?

I’m a third-generation scientist, so I grew up in the lab. Both of my parents were scientists, along with two of my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and most family friends. Maybe I just thought that’s what people do when they grow up? However, I was much more artistically inclined in high school and had considered art school instead of pursuing my bachelor’s. My personal “Eureka!” moment was during an introduction to biology course in college, where I watched Xenopus eggs dividing under a microscope. After that, I was hooked! I think I love microscopy because it integrates art and biology.

What do you do when you are not working in the lab?

I’m a busy mom to two little girls, I’m a runner, and I scuba dive as much as I can.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

Freediving or sailing. My dream is to own a dive catamaran someday, so hopefully I can learn both.

What is your hidden/unique talent?

I’ve been practicing yoga for years, and I competed in the Singapore National Yoga Championships in 2010 (I know competitive yoga seems like an oxymoron to many people).

Name one thing that not many people know about you.

I rode a motorcycle for many years in Singapore; I’m a bit of a gearhead.

If you could meet any scientist from any point in time, who would it be and why?

I would love to have met Sally Ride, the astronaut. In addition to being the first American woman in space, she was an optical physicist, and after her time with NASA, she continued as a professor of optics and lasers. She also wrote children’s books about space and founded educational programs to encourage girls to study science. She had such brilliance and enthusiasm, and she broke down many barriers in science, particularly within the space program. If my girls are going to maintain the family tradition and be scientists when they grow up, I hope they will be astronauts (and invite Mom to come visit them in space).