Graduate Student Spotlight: Evan Piephoff

Danielle Randall
August 21, 2017

Evan Piephoff is a fourth-year graduate student in Professor Jianshu Cao’s group here at MIT. Originally from North Carolina, he is an NSF Fellow and an MIT Presidential Fellow. Evan’s research is centered on the stochastic kinetics and thermodynamics of driven biological systems. Much of his focus has been on developing novel kinetic techniques and generic models with applications to a wide variety of single-molecule processes, including enzyme turnover, molecular motor translocation, and transport through ion channels. At the single-molecule level, fluctuations play a dominant role, and he is analyzing them to determine not only how they affect functionality but also how their measurement can be used to gain mechanistic insight, effectively ‘extracting signal from noise.’ In addition, dynamic disorder due to slow conformational interconversion has been observed in single-molecule experiments, and Evan’s work has helped elucidate the modulating influence of conformational dynamics on enzyme catalysis, as well as the rich, cooperative behaviors attainable in conformational nonequilibrium.

As the subject of August 2017's Graduate Student Spotlight, Evan shares the random job he'd excel at, his top three favorite movies of all time, the most interesting place he's ever visited, and much more!

1.  What random job do you think you’d be really good at?
Vegas oddsmaker.

2. What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
Modern basketball strategy.

3. What superstition do you believe in?
I’m not really superstitious.

4. What would be your ideal way to spend the weekend?

5. What TV channel doesn’t exist but really should?
I’d probably welcome expanded public broadcasting.

6. What are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years?
Advances in quantum computing.

7. Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?
Josiah Willard Gibbs.

8. What would be your spirit animal?
An Owl.

9. What age do you wish you could permanently be?
The spirit and vitality of 21 with the wisdom and wherewithal of…not 21.

10. Why did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
I particularly enjoy analytical theory and statistical mechanics.

11. What are your top three favorite movies?
The Empire Strikes Back, Meet the Parents, and The Dark Knight.

12. What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
Into space.

13. Where is the most interesting place you have been?
The Grand Canyon.

14. Who’s your go to band or artist when you can’t decide on something to listen to?
Johann Sebastian Bach.

15. If you had unlimited funds to build a house that you would live in for the rest of your life, what would the finished house be like?
Quaint and cozy.

16. What bends your mind every time you think about it?
The arrow of time.

17. Who would be the best person you could be stuck in an elevator with?
[Theoretical Physicist] Ed Witten.

18. Who, besides your parents, has had the greatest impact on your life?
The scientists I’ve interacted with over the years.

19. What hobby would you get into if time and money weren’t an issue?
Sports analytics.

20.  If you could pick any career other than the one you’ve chosen, what would it be?
I'd be a string theorist.

Many thanks to Evan for these thoughtful answers! Stay tuned for more Graduate Student Spotlights in the months to come!