Serita Frey, professor of soil microbial ecology at the University of New Hampshire and a researcher with the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station, has been named one of the most highly cited researchers in the world, a distinction earned by fewer than 0.1 percent of scientists globally.

If that name sounds familiar, Concord, it’s because she was one of the panelists at our Science Cafe New Hampshire last June, which talked about the weird, hidden world of microbes and trees.

Each year, the Web of Science Group identifies the world’s most influential researchers. These scientists are the select few who have been most frequently cited by their peers in the most prestigious scientific, peer-reviewed journals over the last decade. In 2019, fewer than 6,300, or 0.1 percent, of the world’s researchers, across 21 research fields, earned this exclusive distinction. The methodology that determines the who’s who of influential researchers draws on the data and analysis performed by bibliometric experts from the Institute for Scientific Information at the Web of Science Group.

This year’s list includes 23 Nobel laureates and 57 citation laureates — individuals recognized by the Web of Science Group, through citation analysis, as “of Nobel class” and potential Nobel Prize recipients. The United States is home to the highest number of highly cited researchers, with 2,737 authors, representing 44 percent of the researchers on the list.

“Recognition and support of these exceptional researchers represents an important activity for a nation or an institution’s plans for efficient and accelerated advancement. The Highly Cited Researchers list contributes to the identification of that small fraction of the researcher population that contributes disproportionately to extending the frontiers of knowledge. These researchers create gains for society, innovation and knowledge that make the world healthier, richer, more sustainable and more secure,” David Pendlebury, senior citation analyst at the Institute for Scientific Information said.

Frey’s research looks at microorganisms in soil and how they respond to environmental changes caused by human activities. Specifically, she and her lab are interested in how climate change, nitrogen deposition, agricultural management, and invasive species affect the composition and diversity of soil microbial communities and microbial-mediated carbon and nitrogen cycles. She describes her research as “at the small end of the scale. Even though I’m working at the microbial scale, my research really tries to bridge the micro and the macro.”

Her research team maintains five long-term global change experiments at the Harvard Forest Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) site and a statewide, distributed soil sensor network in New Hampshire.

Frey received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Virginia and her Ph.D. from Colorado State University. She is editor-in-chief for Issues in Ecology. Her honors include UNH Outstanding Associate Professor of the Year, Distinguished Ecologist Alumna Award from the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology at Colorado State University, Bullard Fellowship from Harvard University, and an NSF Faculty Early Career Development Award.

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