A female graduate student sits on a replica of the Iron Throne made of swords from Game of Thrones.

Graduate Student Spotlight: Amanuella Mengiste

Categories: Students

Chemistry Graduate Student Amanuella Mengiste describes her research and answers 20 random questions as part of the Graduate Student Spotlight series.

Amanuella Mengiste is originally from Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, and is in her second year at MIT. As a member of Professor Matt Shoulders‘ group, Amanuella’s research aims to use the lab’s human cell-based directed evolution platform to alter and study interesting proteins. In particular, she is interested in evolving proteins that require the mammalian cellular substructure to be produced, processed and transported properly. Anyone curious about how exactly the platform works, check out the lab’s 2018 JACS paper.

As the subject of this month’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Amanuella shares the TV channel she’d most like to watch, the house she’d build with unlimited funds, her top three favorite movies, and more!

  1. How did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
    I’ve always been fascinated by biology and intrigued with the idea of altering biology in interesting ways. What better thing is there to do in grad school?!
  2. What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
    Harry Potter and/or A Song of Ice and Fire. I could talk about the actual books or discuss the popular culture/social implications.
  3. What superstition do you believe in?
    I have to recover my bacteria for exactly 30 minutes if I want my cloning to go well.
  4. What TV channel doesn’t exist but really should?
    A TV channel that has a reality show or sitcom about scientists! I think our lives are super interesting and worth featuring on the small screen.
  5. What are your top three favorite movies?
    1. Moonrise Kingdom
    2. 21st Century Women
    3. Booksmart
  6. Who’s your go to band or artist when you can’t decide on something to listen to?
    According to my Spotify statistics, Ramin Djawadi.
  7. 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?
    A completely carbon neutral, glass creation in the middle of a forest, but not too far away from a major city. Complete with a large library and art gallery
  8. Who would be the best person you could be stuck in an elevator with?
    The mechanical engineer who designed/built the elevator.
  9. If you could pick any career other than the one you’ve chosen, what would it be?
    A writer, editor, publisher or photographer. Hey, I may still do those things.
  10. What random job do you think you’d be really good at?
    I think I’d be a pretty good librarian. At the very least, I’d be a very happy librarian.
  11. If you were a wizard, what would be your Patronus?
    I actually took the test so I don’t have to postulate. My patronus was a bird, although I forget what exactly.
  12.  Who is the most famous person you have met?
    Francis Arnold.
  13. What bends your mind every time you think about it?
    Biology, particularly the miniscule molecular motors that make life possible.
  14. Who, besides your parents, has had the greatest impact on your life?
    My teachers. My teachers from high school and my college professors are the biggest reason for my being where I am today.
  15. Who is on the guest list for your ideal dinner party?
    Oh! A collection of Ethiopian musicians, composers, artists, writers and politicians. Eg. Mulatu Astatke, Getachew Mekuria, Girma Beyene, Tsema Mezegebu, President Sahle-work Zewde etc.
  16. What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
    I’ve wanted to bike around the world for many years now, so that.
  17. What would be your ideal way to spend the weekend?
    Cozy weekend at home, with a good book and a great up of tea. Maybe go to a great restaurant with friends in the evening.
  18. What have you only recently formed an opinion about?
    Butternut squash, it’s now my favorite vegetable.
  19. What skill would you like to master?
    I’d like to be a better writer, so I would like to master “writing” (vague and all encompassing, I know).
  20. What are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years?
    Some really good science, some great books, and some wonderful art.

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