Charles Gertler was born in New Haven and came to Harvard after taking time off after high school to live in China; that plus two more summers in Beijing in Harvard's immersive language program has led to his fluency in Mandarin. He is also proficient in Spanish. His experience in China included a research internship at China Three Gorges Corporation, which fed his interest in pollution and environmental science. At the end of this freshman year, he co-founded The Nostalgics, a Soul and Motown Revue, in which he performs as a keyboardist, and he is an on-air jazz DJ at WHRB. He has been a varsity squash team member, and coached disadvantaged youth in a Boston program called SquashBusters. At Harvard, Charles was a joint concentrator in Environmental Science and Public Policy and Earth & Planetary Sciences, living in Mather House. At Cambridge, he pursued an MPhil in Polar Studies as the John Eliot Scholar at Jesus College.