1. What made you want to be a chemist?
I remember when my dad came to my grade two class and demonstrated how to grow copper sulfate crystals. The class were in awe… not so much of the science, but because dad is tall and he had to duck his head to get in the door! My career prospects waivered from scientist to computer programmer to synthetic chemist, then finally physical chemist.
2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be — and why?
I assume a reality check is needed, so I can’t choose NBA star! I would then have to decide between marine biologist and graphic designer.
3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?
In some of our latest work we’ve found surprising quantum phenomena in the photosynthetic proteins of algae. In addition to elucidating this further, I’m interested in working out what factors decide the evolutionary development and diversification of photosynthetic light-harvesting proteins in these algae and their relatives.
4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?
5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab — and what was it?
The last experiment I did in the lab was about 7 years ago when I synthesized CdSe nanocrystals and shelled them with ZnS under the tutelage of my postdoc at the time, Peggy Hines. I was pretty pleased with myself even though the sample was a far cry from those Peggy made routinely!
6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?
I can imagine lazing on the island wearing Prada shades and reading the book I’m about to start: The Crossroads by Niccolò Ammaniti. However, I think I would have to take Herman Weyl’s The Classical Groups: Their Invariants and Representations because at the rate I’m currently progressing I will need a few years on a desert island to get through it! A desert island would be a good chance to play one of the Deep Purple albums banned from my home, though I might have to take the classic Head Hunters by Herbie Hancock.
7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?
There are so many great choices! Paul Barbara at University of Texas, Austin would have interesting responses. He is someone I admire as a great scientist.