Deb Ehrlich smiles while wearing a lei.

Graduate Student Spotlight: Deborah Ehrlich

Categories: Students

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

Deborah Ehrlich has been at MIT for five years, and grew up in Natick, a town about 20 miles due west of Boston. Her recent work in Professor Jeremiah Johnson‘s research group has focused on studying the aqueous self assembly of poly(ethylene glycol) macromonomers into highly tunable micelles.  By changing the hydrophobicity or covalent drug loading of the macromonomer, Deb can control the size, stability, and shape of the resultant particles, important parameters for a drug delivery system.  Further functionalization provides the ability to crosslink these systems, or trigger morphological changes.

As the subject of April 2018’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Deb shares one thing she’s obsessed with, the best purchases she’s ever made, the subject she’d choose to get a PhD in (other than Chemistry!), and more!

1. How did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
I had great teachers and mentors in high school and undergrad who helped to steer me in this direction.

2. What are the best and worst purchases you’ve ever made?
Ibought a lavender topiary recently that makes me smile every time I see it.   Conversely, the lemon tree I bought died almost immediately in my apartment.

3. What problem or situation did TV / movies make you think would be common, but when you grew up you found out it wasn’t?
Everyone is always hiding behind doors or in closets in TV/movies.  I’ve never seen it – or perhaps people are better at hiding than I thought!

4. If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question, what question would you ask?
What are the winning lottery numbers next week?

5. What is something you are obsessed with?
Really ornate desserts – there was a restaurant nearby that had the best dessert before they changed chefs/bartenders – I haven’t gotten over the disappointment yet!

6. Where is the most beautiful place near where you live?
I love taking the train up to Rockport MA.   I can sit on a peninsula surrounded by ocean on three sides, and just watch the waves for hours.

7. Where and when was the most amazing sunset you have ever seen?
Maui – the sun setting over the ocean framed by palm trees.

8. What food have you never eaten but would really like to try?
I’ve wanted to go to Oleana for years, but the timing hasn’t worked out yet.

9. What is the most unsettling film you’ve seen?
The Skin I Live In.  After seeing it, I began looking up movie summaries before attending a showing.

10. If you were given a PhD degree (in something other than chemistry), but had no more knowledge of the subject of the degree besides what you have now, what degree would you want to be given to you?

11. What TV show character would it be the most fun to change places with for a week?
I’ve been watching a show on Netflix lately called Big Dreams Small Spaces, where folks spend a few months designing and building their dream gardens.  I’d love to have a garden allotment to play with.

12. What goal do you think humanity is not focused enough on achieving?
Providing for the basic needs of all.

13. If you were given five million dollars to open a small museum, what kind of museum would you create?
I’d open a botanical garden.

14. What animal or plant do you think should be renamed, and what should the new name be?
The lyrebird deserves a very cool name.

15. If you could hack into any one computer, which computer would you choose?
I’d use this skill to make my friends think they are haunted.

16. What was one of the most interesting concerts you’ve been to?
The crowd at a Trampled by Turtles concert was a ton of fun.

17. If money and practicality weren’t a problem, what would be the most interesting way to get around town?

18. What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from a work of fiction?
Consider things from your opponent’s point of view.

19. What always cheers you up when you think about it?
I love having an event to look forward to – like a musical or concert or trip.

20. If you owned a boat, what would you name it?
Doug, after a friend who would never walk if given the choice.

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