Ashton Davis smiles behind a beagle.

Graduate Student Spotlight: Ashton Davis

Categories: Research, Students

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

Ashton Davis has been at MIT for one year, and joins the department from Sacramento, California. A member of both Professor Tim Swager and Professor Alex Radosevich‘s research groups, Ashton works to develop a sensor for quantitative arsenic detection in water. By including functional groups that react with arsenic species in a polymer architecture, researchers can expect to change conductivity across the polymer as more arsenic containing molecules react with those functional groups. This will overall create a dose-dependent response in a potential sensor.
“I chose to do a PhD in chemistry because like most grad students it was this or get a real job, and that’s scary,” said Ashton. “But also for the genuine love of mixing things together and trying to separate them at the end.”
As the subject of this month’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Ashton shares the thing that bends his mind whenever he thinks of it, the most amazing adventure he could hope to experience, the small thing that makes his day better, and more.
  1. What’s the most interesting documentary you’ve ever watched?
    Trollhunter. It’s a Norwegian pseudodocumentary about a contract working for the Norwegian government who… well, hunts trolls.
  2. What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
  3. What irrational fear do you have?
    Engineers… well heights actually but only on man-made objects. I’m oddly ok on tall rocks.
  4. If you could pick any career other than the one you’ve chosen, what would it be?
    When I was growing up I always wanted to be a strawberry bagel that would get sold for $0.50 at the bagel place down the street from our house.
  5. What bends your mind every time you think about it?
  6. What two things are terrible when separate but great when you put them together?
    Flour and yeast
  7. What animal or plant do you think should be renamed, and what should the new name be?
    Platypus to deaver (duck-beaver)
  8. What one thing do you really want but can’t afford?
  9. An epic feast is held in your honor, what’s on the table?
    Cheese, beer, and pies
  10. What skill would you like to master?
    Well, chemistry would be nice.
  11. Who is the most famous person you have met?
    Owen Wilson was on our flight to Hawaii once when I was 11. I didn’t know who he was, and I was just upset he was blocking my view of the TV screen.
  12. If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
  13. What sport could you play the longest in a televised game, without anyone discovering you aren’t a professional athlete?
    Downhill skiing, until I crashed.
  14. What is on your bucket list?
    Probably a mop?
  15. If you suddenly became a master at woodworking, what would you make?
    A tree, for the irony.
  16. What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
    Drop me anywhere with a backpack and $100.
  17. If you built a themed hotel, what would the theme be and what would the rooms look like?
    An exact replica of the Rainforest Cafe. The volcano in each room goes off every hour so you can’t actually sleep.
  18. What would be the best thing you could reasonably expect to find in a cave?
    The exit.
  19. Where are some unusual places you’ve been?
    I got bit by a bullet ant a 3 day kayak away from the closest town in the middle of the Peruvian amazon so that was pretty unusual.
  20. What are some small things that make your day better?
    Not getting stuck in the Building 6 elevator.

Many thanks to Ashton for these thoughtful answers! Stay tuned for more Graduate Student Spotlights in the future!