Chemistry Graduate Student Edward Badding describes his research and answers 20 random questions as part of the Graduate Student Spotlight series.
Edward Badding came to MIT from State College, Pennsylvania in the summer of 2017. As a member of Professor Dan Suess‘ group, Edward’s research focuses on the only known class of enzymes that are capable of taking dinitrogen and reducing it to ammonia. These enzymes were responsible for providing the majority of the fixed nitrogen we use to grow crops prior to the discovery of the Haber-Bosch process. These enzymes are very complex, and are comprised of two components: the iron protein (FeP) and the iron-molybdenum protein (MoFeP). The MoFeP houses two structurally unique Fe-containing cofactors: the P-cluster and iron-molybdenum cofactor (FeMoco). Studies using 57Fe-based spectroscopies to probe the mechanism of these enzymes are difficult because there are too many Fe sites present. In the MoFeP alone, there are 15 unique Fe sites! The group’s approach to this problem is to use synthetic chemistry to gain control over the composition of complex cofactors, such as FeMoco, so that only one of the Fe sites is isotopically enriched.
As the subject of this month’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Edward shares the interesting yet useless bit of trivia he knows, the person he’d most want to be stuck with in an elevator, the skill he’d master if he didn’t have to sleep, and more!
- How did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
I originally wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do in graduate school, but when I went on visits I heard about Jonas Peter’s research and thought it was cool. Unfortunately I was a biochemist and didn’t think I would be able to do his type of research. Fortunately for me, about a week after listening to Jonas, Dan Suess (my current PI) emailed me saying that he worked for Jonas and had some biological based projects. The rest is history.
- What game or movie universe would you most like to live in?
Avatar the Last Airbender. But with my luck I probably wouldn’t have any bending powers.
- What’s the most interesting documentary you’ve ever watched?
- If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
I would try to master making croissants.
- If you were on a 27 hour flight and could only watch one movie, what would it be?
That is a long flight. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King extended edition
- What bit of trivia do you know that is very interesting but also very useless?
I recently learned about the genetics that control the coloration of Siamese cats. They have a mutation in the enzyme that is producing their colorful fur. The mutation results in an enzyme that is not functional at the body temperature of a cat, which is why Siamese cats only have colorful patches on their extremities (tail, feet…).
- Who are three of your favorite fictional characters?
Toph, Ahsoka Tano, Mando
- What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
Hiking trip to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Zion, and Death Valley.
- Who would be the best person you could be stuck in an elevator with?
The Queen of England. They’d get us out of that elevator real fast.
- If you were given five million dollars to open a small museum, what kind of museum would you create?
Deep sea organisms.
- What are some small things that make your day better?
Getting pictures of cats from my family.
- What is something that a lot of people are obsessed with that you just don’t get the point of?
- What’s worth spending more on to get the best?
Food/Groceries, but only up to a certain point. Once they start putting on the edible gold, you’ve gone too far in price. I still don’t understand that fad.
- If you suddenly became a master at woodworking, what would you make?
A coffee table that fits in my current living room. The one we have now is slightly too small.
- What is special about the place you grew up?
The name is quite literal. I grew up in a town called “State College”, which is where the Pennsylvania State University is. Some people don’t believe me when I say that I grew up in “State College, PA”.
- What did you think you would grow out of but haven’t?
Glow in the dark stuff. I just bought glow in the dark socks with ghost dogs on them that light up. Unfortunately, I realized after I bought them that socks never really get any light, so the only time they light up is when I use a flashlight.
- What irrational fear do you have?
Someone leaving “read receipt” on and not replying. You know who you are.
- If you could have a never-ending candle that smelled like anything you wanted, what fragrance would you want it to be?
Fresh out of the oven homemade sourdough bread
- If you could pick any career other than the one you’ve chosen, what would it be?
I would want to be an architect, specifically one that makes brutalist buildings.
- What was your favorite book as a child, and what is your favorite book now?
I was pretty obsessed, and still am, with cats. So my sister and I loved to read the Warrior series. I’m not sure what my favorite books is now. Maybe Battle Hymm of the Tiger Mom.
Many thanks to Edward for these thoughtful answers! Stay tuned for more Graduate Student Spotlights in the months to come!