Reactions: Ellen Sletten

slettenEllen Sletten is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles.  The Sletten Group develops fluorinated nanomaterials and imaging agents for applications in medicine, chemical biology, and energy.  Ellen can be found on Twitter at @EllenSletten.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

I was hooked ever since taking Advanced Placement Chemistry in high school1. The ability to explain everything around me with elements and molecules was fascinating. I was particularly drawn to organic chemistry because of its synergy with biology, which ultimately led me to carrying out my graduate work with Carolyn Bertozzi.

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

I would be a horse trainer. My first job was working on a farm and teaching horseback riding lessons.  I loved it and spent every free second in high school at the barn. I managed to ride horseback a little in college but gave it up completely to go to graduate school.  Someday I’ll find time for it again!

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

We are exploiting the fluorous phase to create advanced nanotheranostics.  Perfluorinated materials have unique, orthogonal properties to biomolecules which allow us to control the localization and delivery of imaging agents and therapeutics.  We envision these materials will lead to a general approach for personalized medicine.

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

Marie Curie — perhaps she is an obvious choice, but it is incredible what she accomplished in a time when it was difficult for women to do anything outside of their homes.

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

I ran a TLC plate yesterday — does that count?  As a new faculty member, I’ve spent many hours in lab teaching my students and helping them with their chemistry; however, I haven’t actually done any of my “own” experiments here at UCLA.

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

I’m a big Billy Joel fan so any of his albums would do but if I had to pick one it’d be The Stranger, which has “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” on it.  There are many books I’d like to find time to read but I’d have to go with Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, which is a perfect mix of science and inspiration.  Shout out to my graduate school book club for introducing me to this book!

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

John Jewett because he always has great answers!

[1] For our non-American readers, “Advanced Placement” classes (commonly referred to as AP) are upper-level classes that can be taken in lieu of the corresponding introductory course at a university, should the student score well enough on the associated AP exam. While not identical by any means, these are similar to an A-level in regard to who takes them and why.