1. What made you want to be a chemist?
My mother used to teach chemistry in high school, so my family had more books on chemistry than an average Chinese family; that was the initial cause. My organic chemistry teacher Prof. Phil Eaton at the University of Chicago made organic chemistry so interesting, so I decided to stick to chemistry.
2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?
A historian for sure. I enjoy reading history. I also like maps and geography, so I might also have ended up doing some geography-related work. So maybe I’d be a geo-historian.
3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?
We work on miniaturized methods/devices for bioassays. These methods will eventually change the way people do analysis – more point-of-care technology than large-equipment technology.
4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?
The ancient Chinese king Yan Di, who personally tasted and tested many different types of plants, to find cure for diseases. He must have had a very fine and sophisticated taste. I also would like to talk to him about the experience of tasting so many different plants.
5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?
It was probably in 2007 when I showed one of my students how to print molecules onto surfaces of gold-coated glass.
6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?
Book: Journey to the West (a classic Chinese novel). I can survive without a music album.
7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?
Allen J. Bard of UT Austin. I want to know when he last did an experiment in lab.