Reactions – Erin Carlson

Erin Carlson is in the Department of Chemistry at Indiana University, and works on the development and application of advanced chemical biology and systems biology technologies to both define the mechanisms of bacterial development and pathogenesis and identify potential therapeutic agents.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

My dad is a bioorganic chemist, so my interest in the field isn’t surprising. When I was in elementary school, we bought one of those crystal growing kits from the science museum and grew them in a beaker in his lab. I still have that beaker in my home office. I started work in his laboratory at 14 and have never looked back.

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

I would be a photographer for National Geographic. This job would encompass several of my favorite activities; travel, learning about other cultures and photography.

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

Very broadly, we are working to define biochemical pathways associated with disease. Although it’s probably not practical to expect that we will be able to directly find the cure for a major disease, I hope that we will make fundamental contributions that will ultimately enable the development of new treatments.

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

Mahatma Gandhi. Although I have long been intrigued by Gandhi and his philosophies, a recent trip to India intensified my interest and has spurred a great deal of reading and learning about this incredible man.

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

I was in lab just over a week ago synthesizing a molecule for an assay that one of my students is performing.

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

The book I’ve been enjoying that most lately is At the Helm: A Laboratory Navigator by Kathy Barker. I have found it to be invaluable as I start my career as a new faculty member. But I suppose if I were on a deserted island, I wouldn’t really have the opportunity to be running a research lab so I might have to rethink this selection…

I can’t possibly decide on one album since music is such an integral part of my life. At the moment, I would select For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver and The Flying Club Cup by Beirut.