Chemistry Graduate Student Krysta Dummit describes her research and answers 20 random questions as part of the Graduate Student Spotlight series.
Originally from Shelburne, Vermont, Krysta Dummit has been at MIT for four years. Her doctoral studies at MIT have focused on two distinct fields during her tenure in two different research groups. While working for Jeff Van Humbeck, I discovered and investigated a method for catalytic site-selective C-H amination. After transitioning to work in Professor Alex Radosevich‘s group, Krysta has been in engaged in the synthesis of a series of small-ring phosphorus compounds in order to elucidate their electronic structures. Computations and empirical reactivity support the notion of the unique “biphilic” nature of 4-membered ring phosphacycles – phosphetanes – relative to other ring sizes. The Radosevich group has exploited this unique reactivity to access lower-energy transitions in a variety of deoxygenative functionalizations using 1,2,2,3,4,4-hexamethylphosphetane. While reported 31P and 13C NMR shift data support the concept of biphilicity at the phosphorus center of various phosphacycles, no direct measurements of the frontier molecular orbitals of said phosphacycles currently exist. Krysta aims to synthesize a homologous set of phosphacycles and fill this gap in our knowledge, which it turns out, is a lot trickier than it sounds.
As the subject of this month’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Krysta reveals the stereotype she lives up to, the person with whom she’d most like to be trapped in an elevator, the guest list for her ideal dinner party, and more!
- What random job do you think you’d be really good at?
Snorkeling guide or pastry chef.
- What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
How to make chocolate from cocoa beans. I might have to do a few seconds of googling to upgrade it for a chemistry audience as probably the only audience that would have a bunch of follow-up questions to the statement that the chocolate we eat is the fifth of six different crystal forms for chocolate!
- What superstition do you believe in?
Not sure I believe in it, but do knock on wood when I speak optimistically about the future.
- What would be your ideal way to spend the weekend?
One day indoors being a couch potato binging Netflix, maybe baking cookies at some point (or making cookie dough with the “intention” of making cookies and then somehow it all disappears before any cookies get made…), and the other lounging on a beach in the sun eating watermelon – because, in my fantasy, the weekend has two days.
- What TV channel doesn’t exist but really should?
Pet TV. During the mornings/evenings it has programming for people to watch where pets do adorable/stupid things and during the daytime it has programming for people to leave on for their pets to watch while they are at work.
- What are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years?
Being done with graduate school? Is that a question? And getting a dog, basically immediately after I graduate – a Siberian husky I will probably name Thane or Dax or Elva.
- Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?
One of my mentors from undergrad, Latanya Sweeney.
- Who is the most famous person you have met?
Probably Jerry from Ben & Jerry’s. Or I guess Bernie Sanders? #VTsosmall
- Why did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
Phosphorus chemistry confuses me and I like a challenge.
- What are your top three favorite movies?
Stardust, V for Vendetta, and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
- What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
Hiking the circumference of Australia. Or being on the first spaceship to Mars. Low gravity would do wonders for my spine.
- Who is on the guest list for your ideal dinner party?
Emmy Noether, Lisa Meitner, Martha Whiteley, Mary Walker, Harriet Quimby, Elizabeth Van Lew, Margaret E. Knight, Hazel Scott, Octavia Butler, and Belva Lockwood. Since I’m assuming I’m allowed to invite dead people.
- 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 be set back in the woods – so you couldn’t hear cars or city noise. It would have a fenced in dog run in the back yard with a kennel that could fit multiple dogs, an indoor pool, a few spare bedrooms that had their own bathrooms, and a carpeted attic with a set of bunk beds and ridiculous number of pillows. And a basement with a TV room and a giant, floofy couch. Oh, and AC and a giant kitchen with an island.
- What bends your mind every time you think about it?
That the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. has gone up, not down, since I was born.
- Who would be the best person you could be stuck in an elevator with?
An elevator repair man who enjoys word games while he works?
- If you could pick any career other than the one you’ve chosen, what would it be?
Scientific illustrator. I’ve already made a periodic table of pandas and beavers and I’m 1/3 done with the tigers one.
- What is the most annoying habit that other people have?
Continuing to walk side-by-side instead of one after the other on a narrow sidewalk/busy hallway when you are trying to pass from the other direction, so you have to awkwardly move into the street or bump into them or just stop so that you don’t walk directly into a tree/bicycle/water fountain.
- What skill would you like to master?
I’d like to get back to archery, at some point. Oh, and also learn to make sourdough bread. And managing to frost a cake so it actually looks smooth. I should probably add the skill of answering questions succinctly to the list, as well.
- What have you only recently formed an opinion about?
That the handicapped symbol is wildly not representative of the vast majority of people to whom it refers.
- What stereotype do you completely live up to?
The child of two academics is a perfectionist.
Many thanks to Krysta for these thoughtful answers! Stay tuned for more Graduate Student Spotlights in the months to come!