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Anna Frebel Anna Frebel

Communicating respect for graduate students

Anna Frebel, among three at MIT, honored by graduate students as “Committed to Caring.”

Courtney Lesoon | Office of Graduate Education
January 27, 2020

Mitigating the stresses of graduate school requires dedicated community support and mentorship. Professors Wesley Harris, Anna Frebel, and Harry Tuller have been honored by graduate students as “Committed to Caring” for the manifold ways they demonstrate their respect for students.

Anna Frebel: listening and lifting up

Frebel says that “it is a gift to be able to tell, especially younger women, 'You can do it — I believe in you and your ideas.'”

Frebel joined the MIT physics faculty in 2012 as assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor of physics with tenure in 2018. Frebel is best known for her discoveries, and subsequent analyses, of the oldest stars in the universe. Her research offers insight into how these stars can be used to understand the first billion years after the Big Bang, the beginning of star and galaxy formation, and the origin of the chemical elements.

The career path of a woman in physics is bumpier than it should be. “I have seen too many cases where women have been left unprepared for what's to come because advisors were too busy or didn't care to share insight,” Frebel laments. To help address a lacuna in advising, Frebel developed a series of professional career development seminars to offer graduate women in MIT’s Department of Physics practical tools and insights on many unspoken topics and expectations in academia.

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