Inspired by his participation in the 2014 "Out to Innovate" Summit for LGBTQ+ science professionals where he learned the importance of bringing one's entire self to the laboratory, Dr. Aaron F. Mertz was proud to co-found PRISM with his colleagues at Rockefeller University. He hopes PRISM has helped others identify mentors and role models he lacked earlier in his life as an openly gay academic scientist.

As a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow in Dr. Elaine Fuchs's Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development, he researched crosstalk between biology and mechanics in epidermal growth and differentiation. He earned his undergraduate degree in physics from Washington University in St. Louis as a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, a master's degree in the history of science from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and his doctorate in physics from Yale University as a D. Allan Bromley Fellow and an NSF Graduate Research Fellow.

He was a proud delegate at the Inaugural Rhodes LGBTQ Forum in Oxford, UK, in 2017. Aaron also advocated for his female colleagues' success and full participation in science by serving as the sole male member on the board and former Vice President of Women in Science at Rockefeller (WISeR). Fifteen years after graduating, he addressed his high school in Palatine, Illinois, as its Distinguished Graduate for 2017, on the importance of promoting LGBTQ+ people and other underrepresented groups in science and beyond. In 2018, Aaron received the oSTEM Global STEM Service Award for demonstrating “strong dedication to oSTEM, LGBTQ people in STEM, and STEM education” and being “an outstanding role model for the future of our community.”

After completing his postdoc at Rockefeller, Aaron moved in 2019 to The Aspen Institute to become Director of its Science & Society Program.