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Matt Friedman

By joining the Department of Earth and Environmental Science and the Museum of Paleontology at U-M, I’m returning home in more ways than one. I grew up in the western suburbs of Cleveland, near Devonian outcrops that yield the remains of giant extinct fishes including that perennial favorite at the U-M Museum of Natural History, Dunkelosteus. That’s where my interest in earth science and paleontology began. My wife is an alumna of U-M, and I gave my first seminar here in Ann Arbor when I was a PhD student. It is an exciting time for paleontology at the University. The Museum of Paleontology will be leaving its old home in the Ruthven Museums Building, with researchers, students, and geological exhibits headed to the new Biological Sciences Building currently under construction, while our world-class collections will join those of the Herbarium and Museums of Zoology and Anthropology at the new Research Museums Center. By consolidating the University’s incredible biodiversity archives under one roof, I am hopeful that this move will ignite a series of cross-departmental collaborations that will lead to new lines of inquiry.

I started my academic career by majoring in biology and geology at the University of Rochester, and I have been back and forth between biology and geology departments—and both sides of the Atlantic—ever since.

My next step was the University of Cambridge, where I completed a MPhil in the Department of Zoology. It was back stateside for my PhD in evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago, followed by appointment at the University of Oxford where I was on the faculty of the Department of Earth Sciences and a fellow of St. Hugh’s College for seven years.

Put simply, I am a vertebrate paleontologist focused on using fossils to inform our understanding of the evolution of modern biological diversity. 

My own studies target the paleontological record of fishes, which spans the better part of half a billion years and is represented in a variety of depositional settings by relatively complete fossils rich in anatomical data with a bearing in ecology and evolutionary relationships. Current research spans this long history, with projects in the Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic that are complemented by molecular genetic studies of the living relatives of the fossil groups under study. My studies of fossil anatomy draw heavily on recent advances in computed tomography and so-called ‘virtual anatomy’, and along with fellow U-M paleontologist Selena Smith, I’ve set up a high-resolution microtomography lab in Earth and Environmental Sciences for the study of geological samples. – Matt Friedman

Right: Prof. Friedman is performing a CT-Scan of a Michigan Wolverine skull in the newly commissioned laboratory. The COMPUTED-TOMOGRAPHY FACILITY is jointly run by Profs. Selena Smith and Matt Friedman in conjunction with their paleontologic research.