Reactions: Mike Tarselli

Mike Tarselli is a Principal Scientist at Biomedisyn, where he develops drugs to combat neural diseases.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

Like many other scientists, two great teachers pointed me in that direction. The first, Mr. Vito, joyfully bounced around the room as he drew fantastically intricate chemical structures for my high school biology class. The second, Dr. Adams, inspired everyone with his enthusiasm for teaching sophomore organic chemistry.

2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?

No question – I’d be a professional musician. It’s been my passion since I was four years old. I still have a pipe dream to one day perform at Carnegie Hall.

3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?

At Biomedisyn, we’re developing natural product-inspired molecules to help treat neurodegenerative disorders. As the population ages, we’ll need better treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and a variety of other challenging diseases.

4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?

Tough choice. Probably Leonardo da Vinci, whose “non-traditional” career in science, art, and engineering fascinates me.

5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?

I work for a small company; I’m in lab every day! We mostly run reactions med chemists might find familiar: alkylations, cyclizations, deprotections, oxidations, and (of course) daily Pd cross-couplings.

6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?

For the book, let’s take Richard Feynman’s Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman. I strive towards his style, which matches a light, playful tone with serious scientific undercurrent. I’ll cheat a little and bring two albums: Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and They Might Be Giants Severe Tire Damage.

7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?

Let’s hear from Alois Furstner, an organometallic chemist from the Max Planck. I find his work with gold catalysis and metathesis refreshing and exciting.