Catching up with... Holli Frey

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Professor of geosciences Holli Frey grew up in Duane, N.Y., a town of 137 people in the northern Adirondacks, where her parents were the town supervisor and a tax collector/medical technologist, and also ran a cabin and boat rental business.

“As a kid, I loved the outdoors and sciences and was drawn to astronomy and geology,” she said. “Some of my most indelible childhood memories were bundling up in -20˚ F winter nights to see the Quadrantids meteor shower and scouring the talus slopes of Mt. Washington to find rose quartz and black tourmaline.”

Professor of geosciences Holli Frey

Holli Frey is pictured on South Sister volcano in central Oregon.

Those early experiences sparked a lifelong love of the natural world, a quest to understand how it works, and a desire to inspire the next generation of geoscientists.

Frey, who holds a Ph.D. in igneous petrology from the University of Michigan, joined Union in 2007. Her study of volcanoes has provided her with exceptional opportunities to witness their eruptions in Hawaii and the Caribbean island of Montserrat, as well as to see young volcanic fields in New Zealand, Iceland and St. Vincent.

She has led many field trips that have involved her students in her research, including to volcanology sites in Mexico, Oregon and the island nation of Dominica.

“Understanding why volcanoes erupt when and how they do is a fascinating puzzle that I get to explore using observations and samples collected in the field combined with analyses in the lab,” Frey said. “Each volcano has a unique history, and I seek to untangle its behavior and its secrets.”

Frey credits her undergraduate years at Franklin & Marshall, “filled with amazing research opportunities and nurturing, supportive professors,” with making an indelible impression on her.

Catching up with...

Each week a faculty or staff member is profiled. Answering a series of short questions, the profiles are intended to be light, informative and conversational.

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“I wanted to follow in my mentors’ footsteps, inspiring future geologists as a professor at a small college.”

Frey and her husband, Matthew Manon, also a geosciences faculty member, live in Burnt Hills with their daughters Natalie, 12, and Zoe, 10, and kitten, Penguin.

“We spend a lot of time outdoors, hiking, biking and on the water,” she said.

FIRST APP YOU LOOK AT IN THE MORNING: Mornings are a pretty busy time getting our daughters ready for school, so I usually only check the weather.

GO-TO BREAKFAST: On weekdays, it’s most likely Cheerios or an English muffin with peanut butter. On a weekend, I like to make scrambled eggs and bacon with sourdough toast.

LAST GREAT BOOK YOU READ: N.K. Jemison’s “Broken Earth” trilogy was recommended to me as a fan of fantasy and a geologist. The main characters are Syenite and Alabaster!

BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED: “Learn how to write,” came from my dad as he edited my third grade book reports.

FAVORITE PLACE TO VISIT: The summit of a difficult peak with no one else around. A challenging hike makes the scenic vista more satisfying, and I could sit for hours reveling in the peace and majestic surrounding rocky landscape. Some of my favorites have been the High Line trail in Glacier National Park, Knife’s Edge in Maine, Hooker Valley Track in New Zealand and South Sister volcano in Oregon.

WHAT ARE YOU WATCHING RIGHT NOW?: We recently finished “Shadow & Bone,” a fantasy mashup of good vs. evil with some heist high-jinks, based on novels by Leigh Bardugo.

ONE SKILL YOU WISH YOU HAD: Rhythm. I love music, but keeping a steady tempo eludes me.

THREE DINNER PARTY GUESTS (living or deceased): I’d be happy to make the dinner, but would rely on the guests for the conversation. As a lifelong fan of U2 and their blend of anthemic rock and politics, I would invite Bono. He’s a charismatic storyteller and used his mega stardom for activism. We’d be joined by Marie Curie, arguably one of the world’s most famous and influential female scientists, recipient of Nobel Prizes in chemistry and physics, and a mother. Despite personal losses and isolation from family, she persevered and followed her curiosity and passions at a time when female scientists were rare. We’d complete the table with another pioneer, Sir Edmund Hillary, who with Tenzing Norgay was the first to summit Mt. Everest. His tales of mountain exploration and philanthropy would complement the passions and humanity of the other guests.

FIRST CONCERT YOU ATTENDED: U2 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal on Aug. 27, 1992, with my dad when I was 15. I watched their concert films “Rattle & Hum” and “Under a Blood Red Sky: Live at Red Rocks” many times, in hopes to one day see them in person. I’ve now seen them more than a half dozen times but still wish I could have seen the show at Red Rocks – an outdoor amphitheater in Colorado that is literally carved from the local rocks.

LITTLE KNOWN FACT ABOUT YOU: Before heading off to college, I was an ardent fan of the Montreal Canadiens and spent every Saturday night watching “Hockey Night in Canada” on the CBC.