Catherine Badding wears a red coat and smiles on a bridge, a river behind her.

Graduate Student Spotlight: Catherine Badding

Categories: Research, Students

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

Catherine Badding is a fourth-year graduate student who joined the Department of Chemistry when her advisor, Professor Danna Freedman, joined the MIT faculty from Northwestern University. Originally from State College, Pennsylvania (the home of Penn State, where her father was a Professor of Chemistry), Cathy comes to MIT from a long line of Chemistry PhDs.

“My grandfather, great-uncle, father, uncle, and brother all have a PhD in Chemistry and love chemistry,” said Cathy. “Since I had so many role models, I was inspired to go into chemistry. I also [have done] chemistry research since I was 16, and I enjoyed it immensely, so it made sense to pursue a PhD myself.”

As a member of the Freedman Lab, Cathy synthesizes and studies 3d transition metal-bismuth intermetallic materials at ambient and high pressure as permanent magnet and superconductor candidates for renewable energy applications. She uses extreme pressure, generated either by compressing diamond anvil cells or by shooting bullets, for materials discovery because ambient pressure systems are well-explored.

As the subject of this Graduate Student Spotlight, Cathy shares the best thing she could imagine discovering in a cave, the chance encounter that forever changed her life, the meme that always makes her laugh, and more!

  1. If you were given five million dollars to open a small museum, what kind of museum would you create?
    I would create a museum focused on the evolution of socks through the years, with a specific focus on collecting artistic cat socks.
  2. What are some small things that make your day better?
    Oolong tea with Fairlife whole milk; cuddles with my adorable cat, Lotus; quality stationery; sealing my quartz tube without popping them.
  3. What was your favorite book as a child, and what is your favorite book now?
    My favorite books were Warrior Cats by Erin Hunter. I remember thinking as a kid that if I died young, I would like the books to be placed at my grave so I could read them in the afterlife. My favorite books now are Parachutes, Loveless, and Emma.
  4. What chance encounter changed your life forever?My dad was on a trip to Spain when he met a Japanese woman on the train and started chatting with her. He later encountered her again on another train and she mentioned that her friend was looking for a pen pal that spoke English. Then my parents started faxing each other across the ocean and eventually married, resulting in me!
  5. What problem or situation did TV / movies make you think would be common, but when you grew up you found out it wasn’t?
    Love angles or triangles.
  6. What game or movie universe would you most like to live in? What would be the worst to live in?
    I would most like to live in the Kiki’s Delivery Service universe. Delicious food, breathtaking scenery, magic, black cats! It would be the worst to live in like Among Us because you can’t trust anyone.
  7. If you suddenly became a master at woodworking, what would you make?
    I would make cat shelves and walkways and tunnels!
  8. What movie, picture, or video always makes you laugh no matter how often you watch it?
    I love the surprised Pikachu meme.
  9. What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience for the first time again?
    Hollow Knight!
  10. What inconsequential super power would you like to have
    Being able to make any type of glove appear and disappear on my hands.
  11. If you could pick any career other than the one you’ve chosen, what would it be?
    I think I would like to be a therapist or a career advisor. I like listening to people.
  12. If you could have a never-ending candle that smelled like anything you wanted, what fragrance would you want it to be?
    A freshly opened can of tennis balls.
  13. What is the darkest movie you’ve ever seen?
    The Grave of the Fireflies or Barefoot Gen.
  14. What invention doesn’t get a lot of love, but has greatly improved the world?
    The cat scratcher.
  15. What would be the best thing you could reasonably expect to find in a cave?
    The secret recipe to making Greek fire.
  16. What hobby would you get into if time and money weren’t an issue?
    I would get into rock climbing!
  17. If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question, what question would you ask?
    Why are there 2 electrons per s orbital, 6 electrons per p orbital, etc. Why not 3 or 7?
  18. Which TV show character would it be the most fun to change places with for a week? Which character would you least like to change places with?
    I would like to switch places with Mob from Mob Psycho. I would not like to change places with anyone from Attack on Titan.
  19. If you had an app that showed three stats about any person you looked at, what three stats would you want it to show?
    Emotional intelligence, level of compatibility with me, and their mood.
  20. What did you think was going to be amazing but turned out to be horrible?
    Taking an overnight trip from DC to Boston on the train.

Many thanks to Cathy for these thoughtful answers. Stay tuned for more Graduate Student Spotlights to come!