Reactions – Lei Zhu

Lei Zhu is in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at Florida State University, and works on supramolecular chemistry and bioinorganic chemistry of zinc.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

In high school, I enjoyed all subjects in science. The experimental part of (high school) chemistry was much more visual than those of others which swayed me to what I do now.

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

My career choice second to chemistry would be investigative journalism. It is not too different from science – one draws conclusions based on evidence.

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

We develop fluorescent molecules that report zinc gradients in biological systems. Also, we are interested in photophysics and coordination chemistry embodied in the compounds that we design. In addition to advancing fundamental understanding of the chemical systems, I hope that our work will lead to better sensors and catalysts, and ultimately, lots of wonderful surprises.

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

That would be Charles Darwin on the Beagle. He was a wise man and may have had incredible dinner options over his voyages.

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

The last entry on my notebook is March 17 this year. I prepared a precursor of ligands that we study. It’s a reaction that we have done many times. It does not go wrong. I did it to escape from my office work. I do not have a project anymore because I’m unable to provide the continuity that’s required for a project to move forward in a timely manner. Most of my lab activities involve instrument maintenance.

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

I’d happily indulge in Chinese kung fu novels which occasionally do offer recipes for preparing marine delicacies. I’m not so much a music person. I’d trade music CDs for a couple of Dane Cook comedy show recordings.

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

Maitland Jones at NYU. He’s a person with ample life experience but a young and playful heart. Also, Frantz Andersen at SUNY New Paltz would be interesting. He’s a very good friend of mine from the days at UT Austin. Frantz always has shockingly amusing tales to tell.