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Graduate Student Spotlight: Dina Sharon

Categories: Research, Students

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

Dina Sharon is a third year graduate student, and comes to MIT from New Jersey. A member of Professor Adam Willard’s research group, Dina conducts computational chemistry research, employing molecular dynamics simulations to study protein-water interfaces. Though water is life’s ubiquitous solvent, its interactions with the proteins it immerses are not yet completely understood. She enjoys investigating how water molecules can provide insights into the properties of the proteins they surround, and finds it exciting to see how these insights could help in solving problems in drug discovery and biochemistry.

“Ever since my first chemistry course in high school, I have been fascinated by how chemistry provides a molecular understanding of our world,” said Dina. “In college, I really enjoyed learning about computer science. I was excited that computational chemistry offers opportunities to combine my interests in chemistry and computer science. I was intrigued to learn how computational chemistry research provides an atomic-level perspective on chemical and biochemical processes, such as protein dynamics. I am excited and grateful to receive the opportunity to grow as a researcher by pursuing a PhD in chemistry at MIT in the Willard group!”

As the subject of this month’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Dina shares her favorite graduate school memory, some small things that improve her day, the foods that are better when together, and more!

  1. What is your favorite graduate school memory?
    My research advisor and labmates had a welcome get-together for me when I joined the group, and this very warm and kind welcome meant so much!
  2. What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
    My parents and I visited Spain a few years ago, and we really enjoyed exploring Barcelona and admiring the architecture!
  3. What are some small things that make your day better?
    Conversations with family and friends, good books, and spending time outside
  4. What is something that a ton of people are obsessed with but you just don’t get the point of?
    Ebooks: there is something nice about reading a physical book.
  5. What’s worth spending more on to get the best?
    A blender. I received a nice blender as a birthday gift. The texture of the smoothies it makes is great, and I am having fun trying out different smoothie recipes!
  6. If you suddenly became a master at woodworking, what would you make?
    An ambitious project could be to use these (very hypothetical) woodworking skills to create a large enough model of a protein for people to explore, such as building spiral staircases for helices.
  7. Where is the most interesting place you’ve been?
    Visiting the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo was very interesting. I learned about inspiring and impactful individuals, who have made the world a better place.
  8. What movie, picture, or video always makes you laugh no matter how often you watch it?
    Meet the Parents: Ben Stiller is really funny!
  9. What food do you crave most often?
    Sweet potatoes.
  10. What would be the scariest monster you could imagine?
    A monster that introduces small random errors into code I am debugging.
  11. Where would you like to travel after the pandemic ends?
    Australia looks beautiful, and it would be exciting to visit.
  12. What’s the funniest TV show you’ve ever seen?
    Friends: I like the characters’ personalities, and it was fun to watch the reunion a few months ago.
  13. What skill would you like to master?
    Juggling seems like a really cool skill!
  14. If you had unlimited funds to build a house that you would live in for the rest of your life, what would the finished house be like?
    It would have large windows to let in natural light, a library with comfortable chairs and a window seat for reading, and a yard with a dogwood tree.
  15. What bends your mind every time you think about it?
    That proteins can be modeled computationally. It is really exciting to watch movies made from protein simulations and see proteins’ conformational changes!
  16. What hobby would you get into if time and money weren’t an issue and if there was no pandemic?
    Under these circumstances, I would be excited to lead a travel book club, where participants read books related to different countries and then visit these countries.
  17. What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience for the first time again?
    Roman Holiday was a great movie, which I would be excited to experience for the first time again.
  18. What would be the best thing you could reasonably expect to find in a cave?
    It could be exciting to find cave paintings: I like museums, and this would be like an art museum in nature!
  19. What two foods are better together?
    Yogurt and almond butter
  20. If you owned a boat, what would you name it and why?
    Being inspired by the language water researchers use, I would name it “The Hydrophile” (a hydrophilic entity is one with a preference for water) in hopeful anticipation of happy boat rides where my family, friends, and I enjoy spending time on the water.

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