10 Exonian scientists who break barriers

Their work integrates different disciplines that reflect the dynamic nature of learning science at Exeter.

February 11, 2022
Gloved hand in science lab

Thousands of Exonians have made meaningful contributions in scientific fields ranging from microbiology to physics and computer science. Here are 10 whose work integrates knowledge and methods from different disciplines in ways that reflect the dynamic nature of learning science at Exeter today.

Elkan R. Blout ’35

While developing the film chemistry for instant photography at Polaroid Corporation (and authoring or co-authoring more than 50 patent applications), Blout conducted biophysics research at Harvard on peptides and polypeptides, the building blocks for proteins in the body.

John K. Hall ’58

After spending more than three decades mapping bodies of water in the Middle East, marine geophysicist Hall turned to exploring the even more uncharted waters of the Alpha Ridge in the Arctic Ocean using a specially designed research hovercraft.

Robert Nussbaum ’67

A clinician and leader in the fields of human genetics and neuroscience, Nussbaum has focused his research on tracing the genetic roots of hereditary diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

Michael Fossel ’69

With degrees in psychology, neurobiology and medicine, Fossel has devoted his career to studying how humans age. His biotech company, Telocyte, focuses on the potential of telomerase therapy to treat age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Emery Brown ’74

A leading physician-scientist in anesthesiology, Brown is one of only 25 people — and the first African American, the first statistician and the first anesthesiologist — elected to all three branches of the National Academies: Medicine, Sciences and Engineering.

Sarah Spence ’80

As a physician and clinical researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital, Spence works to better understand the connection between the brain and behavior in order to diagnose and support children with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.

Julie Livingston ’84

Livingston is a medical historian whose work intersects the fields of history, anthropology and public health. Her exploration of health care in Botswana through both archival research and ethnography earned her a 2013 MacArthur “Genius” grant.

Alison Buttenheim ’87

A social scientist and public health researcher who studies the role of behavior in infectious disease prevention, Buttenheim helped determine recommendations for equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, and was part of the team overseeing clinical trials of the Moderna vaccine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Aomawa Shields ’93

As an astronomer and astrobiologist, Shields uses computer modeling and other data to search for exoplanets — planets orbiting stars outside our solar system — with atmospheres that might potentially be habitable to life. She spent more than a decade acting in Hollywood before returning to academia, and is still active in science communication and outreach.

Sarah Milkovich ’96

As a planetary geologist and science systems engineer working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Milkovich studies the layers of ice and dust on Mars’ surface in an attempt to trace the planet’s geological history.

Are you an Exonian scientist with a career that defies a singular definition? Do you know one? We want to hear from you. Email us at bulletin@exeter.edu

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the winter 2022 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.