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Graduate Student Spotlight: Dan Laorenza

Categories: Students

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

Dan Laorenza started out at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Now, he is entering his fifth year in graduate school, where he works in the lab of Professor Danna Freedman. His research focuses on the design, synthesis, and spectroscopic characterization of transition metal systems as molecular quantum bits. In this area, his work primarily addresses a simple question: can we create tunable molecular systems that replicate the optical-spin control in defect-based qubits, such as the anionic nitrogen vacancy center in diamond, to develop a new class of atomically tunable candidate qubits? To create molecular analogues of these solid-state color centers, he, fellow lab mates, and the group’s wonderful collaborators have worked closely to develop electronic structure and symmetry-based design principles to achieve such optical addressability and demonstrate the requisite optical-spin interface in coordination complexes. In ongoing work, the subgroup (aka ‘boptical’ subgroup) is extending these principles to a broader scope of molecular systems using a similar electronic structure-based approach.

As the subject of this month’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Dan shares the video that never fails to make him laugh, the menu for his ideal epic feast, the most heartwarming thing he’s seen, and more!

  1. What game or movie universe would you most like to live in? What would be the worst to live in?
    Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 for N64. No other game soundtrack compares. Lots would probably be equally bad.
  2. If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
    Drink coffee any time.
  3. What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
    Magic the Gathering.
  4. What is something that a ton of people are obsessed with but you just don’t get the point of?
    Tik Tok. The animals are great but everything else is confusing.
  5. What’s worth spending more on to get the best?
    Speakers and headphones.
  6. If you suddenly became a master at woodworking, what would you make?
    Chairs like Ron Swanson.
  7. What is special about the place you grew up?
    It’s home to one of the oldest family-owned businesses in the world.
  8. What irrational fear do you have?
  9. If animals could talk, which animal do you think would be the most annoying, and why?
    Still humans.
  10. If you could pick any career other than the one you’ve chosen, what would it be?
    Any craftsperson position where I work with my hands all day.
  11. What movie, picture, or video always makes you laugh no matter how often you watch it?
    A video of our cats meowing (screaming?) as tiny kittens right before being fed.
  12. If money and practicality weren’t a problem, what would be the most interesting way to get around town?
    Jet packs.
  13. 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?
    Decorating every new living space.
  14. An epic feast is held in your honor, what’s on the table?
    Every type of dessert.
  15. What is the most heartwarming thing you’ve ever seen?
    Every large animal-small animal friendship.
  16. What is the darkest movie you’ve ever seen?
    Midsommar; not the whole movie but that one cliff scene haunts me more than anything else.
  17. What one thing do you really want but can’t afford?
    To travel internationally.
  18. What inconsequential super power would you like to have?
    Diagonalizing n-dimensional matrices.
  19. Who would be in the lineup for your ideal music festival?
    Andrew Bird, Fleetwood Mac, Anderson .Paak, The Strokes, Third Eye Blind, Dispatch.
  20. Where was the most amazing sunset you have ever seen?
    Sunset from the White Mountains.

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