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Graduate Student Spotlight: Gino Occhialini

Categories: Students

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

Gino Occhialini came to MIT from San Marcos, Texas in the Fall of 2018, after receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas, Dallas. Gino’s research with Professor Alison Wendlandt‘s group focuses on utilizing photochemistry to access new reactivity for organometallic catalysts, specifically by accessing new potential energy surfaces. Typical organometallic reactivity is done in the ground state; however, the reactivity profiles of metals is much greater than this alone, and reacting on different potential energy surfaces could give rise to new reactivity or selectivity. Gino is particularly interested in this in the context of utilizing earth-abundant first-row metal both as an alternative to precious metals as well as for their unique reactivity.

As the subject of this month’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Gino shares the hobby he would take up if time and money were no object, the fictional place he’d most like to visit, the piece of entertainment he’d like to experience all over again for the first time, and more!

  1. How did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
    My research journey started in organic materials, especially synthesizing and studying new monomers for covalent organic frameworks. In this research, I often found myself taking three or four steps to do what I figured should be possible in only 1. This led me to start thinking about reaction development for my PhD work. Plus, photochemistry is just really awesome!
  2. What fictional place would you most like to go?
    Middle Earth because I’m ready for second breakfast and 11sies
  3. What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience for the first time again?
    Gossip Girl and West Wing, because Blair Waldorf is a Queen and Bartlet is the President we deserve
  4. What weird food combinations do you really enjoy?
    I prefer to judge my roommates weird food combinations instead. For example: a banana dipped in protein powder.
  5. What movie can you watch over and over without ever getting tired of?
    Star Wars (all of them – even the prequels)
  6. Where are some unusual places you’ve been?
    I went on a 30 day backpacking course in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming when I was in high school.
  7. If someone narrated your life, who would you want to be the narrator?
    Kristen Bell (xoxo).
  8. What TV show character would it be the most fun to change places with for a week?
    Olivia Pope from Scandal (Season 1).
  9. What would be the best thing you could reasonably expect to find in a cave?
    Paleolithic art!
  10. What unethical experiment would have the biggest positive impact on society as a whole
    Can an unethical experiment really positively impact society? Unethical experiments are usually shortcuts for ethical ones, and not worth losing ourselves for.
  11. If you could know the truth behind every conspiracy, but you would instantly die if you hinted that you knew the truth, would you want to know?
    Yes, because I’d like to know what’s in Area 51 without having to storm it.
  12. What fictional characters have you had a crush on over the years?
    Spiderman (Tom Holland > Andrew Garfield > Tobey Maguire)
  13. What’s incredibly cheap and you would pay way more for?
  14. What’s the best thing about the place you grew up?
    The food: the best BBQ in the world is from Texas.
  15. What did you believe for way too long as a child?
    Apparently Santa doesn’t exist?
  16. What two things are terrible when separate but great when you put them together?
    Salt and food.
  17. If you owned a restaurant, what kind of food would it serve?
    Italian Food – I’m basically already running one out of my apartment​.
  18. What inconsequential super power would you like to have?
    Being able to roll out of bed ready to go.
  19. What’s the most ridiculous animal on the planet?
    The Honey Badger, because it don’t care.
  20. If you wanted to slowly drive a roommate insane using only notes, what kind of notes would you leave around the house?
    I think any kind of notes would drive my current roommates insane.

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