Mara Freilich grew up in Wilmington, Del. When she was very young, she was afraid of the ocean but soon came to love spending time outdoors hiking, backpacking, biking, and kayaking. She became fascinated with ocean microbes when, at a course she attended with her grandparents, she looked at some seawater she had collected under a microscope. The course instructor told her that some of the species she was looking at hadn't yet been identified and she was immediately hooked on oceanography. In college, she majored in applied math and enjoys being able to combine mathematical models and field work. Her Ph.D. advisor is WHOI oceanographer Amala Mahadevan and her mentor for this article was Ken Kostel.