At a Glance

Year: ‘09
Major(s): Mathematics

Mathematics BS

As a mathematics major, you will gain the tools for explanation and analysis in the physical world, and in engineering, business and the social sciences.

An elective sociology course guided mathematics alum Alex Frieden ’09 toward a career in gene sequencing.
“Taking that sociology class quite literally had a huge impact on my entire career,” the Sherborn, Massachusetts, native says.
Frieden came to UMass Lowell for its strong plastics engineering program, but he soon found himself more engaged in the advanced mathematics courses he was taking. He switched his major from plastics engineering to mathematics during his second year of college, with the ambition of becoming a math professor.
While taking the required math classes, Frieden found time to fit multiple elective courses into his schedule.
“I greatly enjoyed the flexibility that I had,” he says. “UMass Lowell gives a lot of options for what classes you can take.”
During the semester before Frieden graduated, he took a sociology course with Prof. Emerita Charlotte Ryan. While talking to Ryan about his post-graduation plans, Ryan found a connection between Frieden’s newly found passions in her class and the work of her husband, Harvard University Prof. David Christiani.
“You need to talk to my husband,” Frieden recalls Ryan saying.
Ryan connected Frieden with Christiani, and they talked about precision medicine, which, according to the National Institutes of Health, is “an innovative approach that takes into account individual differences in patients' genes, environments and lifestyles.” Their conversation got Frieden excited about the possibility of using his math knowledge for gene sequencing in the health care field.
Frieden had already been accepted to Louisiana State University’s Ph.D. program for mathematics, but after completing the master’s degree requirements, he decided to leave and pursue a genomics career in the Boston area. 
Frieden worked at local genetics companies before landing a leadership role with Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s bioinformatics group, which runs gene sequencing to determine variants of different cancerous tumors. His work helped doctors determine the appropriate treatment options for each patient. Frieden’s group also collaborated with researchers in need of their sequencing services.
“Coincidentally, one of our customers was David Christiani,” he says. “It is a crazy small world that came full circle for me.”
In 2018, Frieden left Brigham and Women’s Hospital to pursue a new genomics venture, this time in the agriculture sector with Inari Agriculture, a Cambridge-based startup company on the hunt to revolutionize crops by gene editing seeds. Frieden was initially hired as Inari’s lead engineer and has since been promoted multiple times, coinciding with the company’s growth to roughly 300 employees across three sites in two countries.
“There’s a lot of promise in gene editing, and we’re just scratching the surface,” he says.
Frieden says he is grateful for the UMass Lowell professors, like Ryan, who served as a guiding light while he figured out his calling. He still keeps in touch with Mathematics and Statistics Chair Ravi Montenegro, with whom he conducted research while an undergraduate.
“He’s been a wonderful resource whenever I ping him with questions,” Frieden says. “UMass Lowell hires professors who are there to connect with students, and that really speaks to the university’s character.”

Why UML?

Alex Frieden.
“UMass Lowell gives a lot of options for what classes you can take.”