A chemist for Cambridge

Merrick Pierson Smela, blond with a grin, poses next to the 3-d periodic table display in Kolthoff Hall.

As a boy, Merrick Pierson Smela was attracted to chemistry’s “stinks and bangs,” and he liked “watching things fizz and change color.” Today, the 2018 U of M grad has reaped more awards for his scientific prowess than will fit on this page. Among the highlights, he has won a National Merit Scholarship, and, last year, an Astronaut Scholarship—one that, he says, is particularly meaningful to him.

Earlier this year, Pierson Smela won a Churchill Scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge’s Churchill College, where he will enroll in a Master of Philosophy degree program. A chemistry and biochemistry major, he had figured on entering a doctoral program right after getting a bachelor’s degree.

"However, the overall benefits of studying abroad vastly outweigh the cost of postponing my doctoral studies, and I am looking forward to my year at Cambridge," he says.

At Cambridge, he’ll tackle one of science’s biggest challenges: how to coax human stem cells into producing egg cells. He hopes to make a substantial contribution toward that goal, whose attainment, he says, would yield immediate benefits in treating infertility and developing an alternative source of egg cells for research.

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities