Graduate Student Spotlight: Tianyu Zhu

Danielle Randall
November 28, 2017

Tianyu Zhu has been at MIT for over four years, and comes to Cambridge by way of the eastern part of China. As a member of Professor Troy Van Voorhis' group, Tianyu's esearch focuses on developing fast and accurate quantum simulation methods and applying them to study energy conversion problems. Specifically, he is working on designing a new embedding framework to improve the accuracy of density functional theory (DFT) calculations while maintain the high computational efficiency. Using the simulation techniques, Tianyu is also interested in studying the energy transfer mechanisms in organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). In collaboration with experimental groups at MIT, he helped propose useful strategies for improving the luminescence efficiency in OLED devices and design several new highly-efficient OLED emitters.

As the subject of November 2017's Graduate Student Spotlight, Tianyu reveals his irrational fear, the movie that never fails to make him laugh, the most interesting place he's ever been, and more!

1. Where is the most interesting place you’ve been?
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

2. What movie, picture, or video always makes you laugh no matter how often you watch it?
Despicable Me.

3. How did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
I became interested in theoretical chemistry after doing summer research under the guidance of Prof. Bill Gelbart at UCLA. I felt great to understand complex chemical phenomena using fundamental physical laws. So when I came to MIT, I joined Troy's group to work on the electronic structure theory and applications.

4. What did you think was going to be amazing but turned out to be horrible?
Going to the Celtics' second game of eastern conference finals last season. I thought it would be at least a tight game but the Celtics lost 44 points to the Cavs :(

5. If you built a themed hotel, what would the theme be and what would the rooms look like?
Marvel superheroes. Each room would have a different superhero setting. Imagine living in the Iron Man room with Iron Man suits in your closet!

6. What food do you crave most often?
Fried chicken wings.

7. If you had an app that showed three stats about any person you looked at, what three stats would you want it to show?
Sense of humor, 5 recently played songs, 5 recently watched sport games.

8. What is your secret talent?
Ping Pong! I had professional Ping Pong training for 4 years when I was a kid.

9. As a child, what did you think would be awesome about being an adult, but isn’t as awesome as you thought it would be?
Travelling alone.

10. What’s the funniest TV show you’ve ever seen?
The Big Bang Theory.

11. What are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years?
The development of a real quantum computer.

12. What sport could you play the longest in a televised game, without anyone discovering you aren’t a professional athlete?
Soccer.

13. What fictional characters have you had a crush on over the years?
Hermione Granger.

14. An epic feast is held in your honor, what’s on the table?
Fillet mignon steaks, seared scallops, shrimp and crawfish boil, chicken wings, chocolate mousse cakes, wines and beers.

15. What is the most heartwarming thing you’ve ever seen?
My girlfriend moved to Boston to study and work after I came to MIT.

16. What is the darkest movie you’ve ever seen?
The Butterfly Effect.

17. What one thing do you really want but can’t afford?
An Audi S7.

18. What job doesn’t exist now but will exist in the future?
Artificial organ designer.

19. What’s something common from your childhood that will seem strange to future generations?
Rent movies and animations from video rental shops.

20. What irrational fear do you have?
Snakes and birds.

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