Scientific polymath Scott Fraser has a special talent for live imaging of microscopic organisms — among a multitude of skills.
As a kid, Scott Fraser took his toys apart to see how they worked, and he delighted at the discovery of hidden mechanisms and unexpected connections. As a young man, he labored alongside his grandfather, a carpenter who built the forms for many of the poured-concrete bridges in Pasadena, and later applied his penchant for building things to science with his adviser, Daniel Petersen, at Harvey Mudd College.
Those early forays in engineering have turned Fraser into what he is today: a physicist, engineer and developmental biologist with a special talent for live imaging of microscopic organisms. Delighting in the unexpected has helped him find surprising solutions to scientific problems: He’s learned the trick of using a human eyelash to cut through a frog embryo. In his lab, he turned an airport baggage scanner into a low-light microscope for a better view of tiny biological specimens.
As USC’s director of science initiatives and director of the Translational Imaging Center, Fraser has a hand in a wide array of research endeavors, from applied physics to neurobiology. And while his list of scientific publications, citations and patents keeps growing — he was named to the National Academy of Inventors in 2016 and the National Academy of Medicine in 2020 — his most influential contribution to science may be his work as a mentor and collaborator.