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Fionna M.D. Samuels


I grew up in a home led by a biology teacher. My rebellion: go into chemistry. Now, as a Ph.D. student at Colorado State University, I’ve found a happy medium using powerful laser systems to peer into live plant cells searching for cryoprotectants. These chemicals protect plant tissue from the freezing temperatures of cryopreservation, a process that researchers use to conserve agricultural and endangered species. An entire plant can be resurrected from one, tiny slice of frozen tissue if the correct cryoprotectants are used. We want to know why some cryoprotectants work, while others fail.

Through my studies, I’ve found immense joy in sharing stories of real-world chemistry with others. Like my biologist mom, who now regularly sends me updates on her local orcas and elephant seals, I want to spin science narratives that inspire curiosity and love of the world around us. I am so grateful for the mentors who introduced me to the world of science writing and am ecstatic to write for Scientific American this summer!


Photo of Fionna leaning against the trunk of a pine tree and smiling.
Photo credit: Sam Miller

Colorado State University

Fellowship Sponsor: Ralph W.F. Hardy Endowment

Fellowship Host: Scientific American