A male graduate student smiles in hockey gear.

Graduate Student Spotlight: Andrew Navia

Categories: MIT News, Students

Chemistry Graduate Student Andrew Navia describes his research and answers 20 random questions as part of the Graduate Student Spotlight series.

Andrew Navia is in his fifth year of graduate school, and hails from Lexington, Massachusetts. A member of Professor Alex Shalek‘s group, Andrew’s research centers around single cell RNA sequencing; in both developing technology and studying cancer biology. On the technology side, he has spent a lot of time synthesizing plastic beads that can capture and barcode the RNA from individual cells. On the cancer side, he has been studying tumor states in pancreatic cancer and drug response in leukemia.

As the subject of this month’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Andrew shares his three favorite fictional characters, the one movie he’d watch on a loop on a 27 hour flight, the movie universe he’d love to live in, and more!

  1. How did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
    I had done medicinal chemistry as an undergrad and wanted to continue working in a more clinically relevant space. And Alex Shalek seemed cool.
  2. What game or movie universe would you most like to live in?
    I’ve always been a Star Wars fan. I was a Jedi for Halloween a lot when I was younger and living that would be awesome.
  3. What’s the most interesting documentary you’ve ever watched?
    The Office was a documentary, right? I learned a lot about the average American workplace. It really pushed me towards a career in science rather than paper sales.
  4. If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
    I’d play more music.
  5. If you were on a 27 hour flight and could only watch one movie, what would it be?
    The Polar Express. Easy.
  6. What bit of trivia do you know that is very interesting but also very useless?
    ə is called a schwa.
  7. Who are three of your favorite fictional characters?
    Jim Halpert, Tigger, Hercules
  8. What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
    My grandparents used to take our whole extended family on cruises. It was great having that family time and we’re all still super close.
  9. Who would be the best person you could be stuck in an elevator with?
    I have been stuck in and elevator before and got pulled out the top after a few hours. I definitely wish James Taylor (my favorite artist) was there with me so I could get a private show.
  10. If you were given five million dollars to open a small museum, what kind of museum would you create?
    A museum about our department. Some pretty interesting people have come through here over the years. It could have cycling exhibits on recent department papers and spotlight alumni doing cool things in an out of science.
  11. What are some small things that make your day better?
    I have a digital picture frame next to my bed that cycles through my favorite photos. That always makes me smile
  12. What’s worth spending more on to get the best?
    Loaded Nachos. Never go unloaded.
  13. If you suddenly became a master at woodworking, what would you make?
    I’d build a cabin, somewhere with a view.
  14. What is special about the place you grew up?
    Lexington is pretty historic. It was cool learning about the founding of our country where it happened.
  15. What did you think you would grow out of but haven’t?
    Playing videogames. I don’t have a ton of time for them anymore, but during quarantine, it’s been a good way to stay in touch with old friends.
  16. What irrational fear do you have?
    Sailing, the boats are WAY too tippy.
  17. What chance encounter changed your life forever?
    I presented my high school science fair project to my future undergrad PI, that’s what got me into his lab once I got to Emory.
  18. If you could have a never-ending candle that smelled like anything you wanted, what fragrance would you want it to be?
    Pine. Or something that makes inside smell more outside.
  19. If someone narrated your life, who would you want to be the narrator?
    Tom Hanks.
  20. What was your favorite book as a child, and what is your favorite book now?
    I had a children’s book about the immune system I liked a lot when I was really young. I couldn’t read at that age, but I would memorize the words and recite them to my parents to pretend I was reading. I’ve been really into biotech start-up books lately. Science Lessons by Gordon Binder and The Billion Dollar Molecule by Barry Werth.

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