As evidenced by all the young girls pairing white lab coats with tutus on her Instagram, Dr. Merritt Moore is an inspirational woman to be reckoned with. We could spend all day listing Merritt's incredible accomplishments — among which include graduating from Harvard, landing a spot on Forbes 30 Under 30, and having been featured in Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 2 alongside the likes of Oprah and JK Rowling. In short, however, she is a beacon of light for women who reach for the stars — which happens to be literal in her case, as she once trained to become an astronaut! Merritt chose not to choose between her two passions, simultaneously dancing internationally for various ballet companies and pursuing a PhD in Atomic and Laser Physics at Oxford. With two drastically different professions, she praised Minika Ko’s innovative designs that meet both the practical needs of a dancer and the fashionable demands of a career woman. We spent a day with Merritt in Boston on her first day as an artist in residency at Harvard University, where she's working to explore the intersection of science and art.
What is your personal philosophy in life and work?
I live life as an experimentalist. Whether it be in the lab, in the dance studio or on the street, I have to test out theories myself. In everyday life, people are often given advice/instruction and it is taken as law. Unfortunately with that mentality, a lot of opportunities and possibilities are missed. In contrast with my experience as a physicist, I am constantly starting from scratch and trying totally new ideas. It has helped me be resistant against prejudices and preconceived beliefs and given me strength to march to the beat of my own drum.
As a ballerina and quantum physicist, how do you balance these two worlds?
With a lot of persistence and patience. It hasn’t been easy especially since I started ballet at 13 and have had to constantly play catch up. Therefore I have sneakily done abs and feet exercises during seminars, I fall asleep on foam rollers, bring lacrosse balls to massage out my back during dinners and do a floor bar at the back of the bus during my 2 hour commute between Oxford and London. My roommates are surprised if I am sitting at my desk rather than studying in the splits on the floor or leg up in a doorway. And same for physics, I bring reading with me backstage and frantically finish problems in the changing room.
What advice would you give to women who want to get into these fields?
For advice to anyone pursuing their passions, I would give Newton's 3rd law of motion: “For every action, there is equal and opposite reaction” because I view it as a great motto for life. Everything you do inevitably circles back. All the work and intention you put into a dream will pay off (not always in the way you think but in a just as exciting and rewarding way).
What's your favorite performance so far?
I love every performance as thought it's my last one. My favorite will be if I ever get a chance to dance on the moon.
Tell us about your partnership with Harvard.
The ArtLab is an incredibly special place! I had the opportunity to be one of the first test artist-in-residence. What makes it so cool is that it provided the opportunity to research without the pressure to deliver by the end of the residency. It meant I could explore the frontier of science and tech without worrying about its immediate dependability for a performance.
What are you reading now?
I just finished Elon Musk: Telsa, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance and How We'll Live on Mars by Stephen Petranek. Currently I'm reading Ignition: An informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants.
What's your favorite KOVASKY outfit, and how do you wear it?
The hoodie jacket! I wear it everyday for casual business meetings, dance, lab, airports, date nights. It’s so light weight, elegant and easy to wash. I also love the pants. I just gave a TEDx talk last week in them because I need something business casual but flexible enough dance in. They were perfect.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.