An Interview with Retsina Meyer

TEDxFenway is fortunate to have so many wonderful volunteers who help us create and organize our dynamic program. This year, we have  guest writer Benjamin Scheiner who is a founding member of TEDxGrandviewAve in Pittsburg, PA, as well as a science writer with a  material engineering background. Please welcome Benjamin, and check out his interview with Dr. Retsina Meyer, who will be speaking about her discovery of grehlin's impact on PTSD symptoms at TEDxFenway: GRIT.

By Benjamin Scheiner

Retsina Meyer, a MIT PhD Neuroscientist, cares about communication. Through years of determined effort, she has developed her communicative abilities alongside her scientific investigations- a feat that took substantial grit. Meyer’s resume starts the story: In 2004, she graduated with two bachelors’ of science covering Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and Mathematics and Biopsychology. In 2004 and 2005 she was a Fulbright Scholar in Norway, and in 2013 she received her PhD in Neuroscience from MIT. But all of this barely hints at the vast reserves of grit Meyer has demonstrated throughout her years. To get at that, we need to go back in time.

Born in the Netherlands to American parents, Retsina Meyer learned about the world through the twin lenses of science and communication. “Both my parents came from science fields, but had since moved on to other things. I grew up talking about science.” Says Meyer:  “I have wanted to pursue a PhD since I was 7, but I hadn’t picked a field. At 7 you don’t know about neuroscience or biology or chemistry- all I knew was that I wanted to be a scientist.”

To communicate technical information succinctly is no small feat, and that Meyer wanted to become such an individual is a testament to her upbringing. Now a days, Meyer lists 12 lectures and 13 presentations in a summary of her recent work- but early on, her idea that scientists must communicate well diverged from some of her teachers. During her studies, Meyer was told to expect to leave confusion in the wake of scientific discussions as if technical speakers and audiences were doomed to partial communication. “I didn’t like that,” she says “so I started looking for a better way.”

Several years and countless hours of discussion later, Meyer proved herself incredibly fluent in passing her ideas to others. “My father would come with me to an academic poster session. In a few minutes I would convey to him enough about my work that he would present my poster while I checked out everyone else’s ideas.”

Always open to improving her skills, Retsina Meyer jumped at the chance to present her tale of grit at TEDxFenway. Our truncated format appeals to the communicator in her, and our audience appeals to the scientist. Listening to her bring together both will be a spectacle worth hearing. As Meyer herself put it: “At my last talk I presented for two hours, spoke for one and a half hours before that, and three hours after. TEDx is aiming for 10 minutes.”

What would life be without continued challenge? TEDxFenway is proud to be Meyer’s next appearance and believe she’s in good standing to beat our call. Congratulations Retsina Meyer, and we look forward to hearing your talk on April 29th!