Chemistry Graduate Student Kathleen Wang describes her research and answers 20 random questions as part of the Graduate Student Spotlight series.
A second year student in the Wendlandt group, Kathleen Wang comes to MIT from near Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her current research expands the lab’s light-mediated epimerization platform from sugars to more general organic substrates. Leveraging selective energy input from light allows them to access high-energy radical intermediates, and our goal is to design catalyst systems that can impart diastereoselectivity to stereoablated radical intermediates in alcohol and methine epimerization reactions.
As the subject of this month’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Kathleen shares an interesting bit of useless trivia, the movie that makes her laugh no matter how often she sees it, her take on the planet’s most ridiculous animal, and more!
- How did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
My research and coursework in undergrad gave me an intro to physical organic chemistry, which I discovered I really liked. When I applied to grad school and eventually came to MIT, I was looking specifically for more phys org research opportunities.
- What movie, picture, or video always makes you laugh no matter how often you watch it?
What We Do in the Shadows cracks me up every time. It’s a mockumentary about a group of vampires living in modern day New Zealand – I’m not sure if this is true but to me it feels like a response to the late 2000’s/early 2010’s Twilight-era vampire obsession.
- What’s the most interesting documentary you’ve ever watched?
This one’s a tie between 13th (essential history) and The Barkley Marathons (more lighthearted).
- What bit of trivia do you know that is very interesting but also very useless?
I took a wine viticulture/horticulture course in undergrad where I picked up quite a few useless pieces of wine trivia! For example, the percent ABV on wine labels must be accurate to ±1.5% ABV.
- What movie universe would be the worst to live out your life in?
I would not do well in any horror movie universe, honestly. In particular I’m thinking about where the films Hereditary and Sinister take place.
- What’s the most ridiculous animal on the planet?
We are, probably?
- What would your perfect bar look like?
At this point, I’m not asking for much…anything that isn’t “virtual drinks over Zoom.”
- What movie or book do you know the most quotes from?
Somehow I can vividly remember reading Coraline as a kid, and I love the film as well. One of my sisters received the movie on DVD as a gift and we would watch it at least twice a year as kids.
- What movie title best describes your life?
(working from) Home Alone
- What inconsequential super power would you like to have?
I’d love to be able to identify plants.
- What food do you crave most often?
Pretty much any kind of savory brothy soup – bone broth, pho, ramen…yum.
- What did you believe for way too long as a child?
My parents immigrated to the US from China, and my grandparents lived with us for nearly all of my life. Most of my friends growing up were also Chinese-American and many of my friends’ grandparents lived with their families too. I probably didn’t learn until high school that most kids don’t grow up with their grandparents living in the same house, and I’m really grateful to have had that experience.
- What’s the most amazing place in nature you’ve been?
I spent a weekend hiking and kayaking in the Geirangerfjord in Norway – that was an amazing experience.
- What is something that is popular now that annoys you?
I don’t think this is something that annoys me, but here’s my hot take: it’s 2020 and Star Wars doesn’t hold up to the hype. No offense to any fans!
- What is your guilty pleasure?
Instant ramen. These days I’ve been indulging more frequently than I’d like to admit.
- What is the silliest fear you have?
Cockroaches. I’m triggered just thinking about it.
- Do you like reality TV shows? Why or why not? If so, which ones?
I’ll watch some reality TV; a common critique that I’ve heard and definitely have noticed is that production teams can be really unfair towards the people who are being portrayed. Lately I’ve been watching some old seasons of Survivor and Love Island.
- What song always puts you in a good mood?
Coconuts by Anna Wise
- What apps have changed your life a lot?
I’m really bad at consistently using it, but a previous therapist recommended Moodpath, a mood tracker app. I sometimes find it helpful to have dedicated time and space on my phone to process anxiety or depressive episodes, but it’s nice to give myself the option to check in when I’m feeling good as well.
- If you could make a holiday, what would it be like? What traditions would it have? What would people eat on your holiday?
A day where everybody celebrates their dogs sounds like fun. It’s like if you’re having a birthday party for your dog, but it’s every other dog’s birthday too.
Many thanks to Kathleen for these thoughtful answers! Stay tuned for more Graduate Student Spotlights in the months to come!