Chemistry Graduate Student Kyan D'Angelo describes his research and answers 20 random questions as part of the Graduate Student Spotlight series.
Kyan D’Angelo came to MIT from Toronto three years ago, and, though he grew up in several other locations, considers that to be his hometown. His research in Professor Mohammad Movassaghi‘s Group is focused on the synthesis of biologically-active natural products using novel synthetic strategies. Leveraging nature’s blueprint, the group develops robust, selective strategies for the concise generation of molecular complexity not possible with existing methods. An intimately-associated aspect of Kyan’s synthetic research is the development of a mechanistic understanding of these reactions and the biology of the complex molecules they generate.
As the subject of May 2019’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Kyan shares the animal that he would find most terrifying were it to speak, the question he would ask a time traveler from the future, his go-to musician, and more!
- How did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
The 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry gave me a reason to look into organic chemistry. A great chemistry teacher, Periodic Videos, and a presentation from the inventor of Gleevec got me totally obsessed with the subject just before I graduated high school.
- If your five-year-old self suddenly found themselves inhabiting your current body, what would your five-year-old self do first?
Go much, MUCH faster on a scooter in a public place than I really should.
- What piece of “art” would you create if you had to pretend to be an artist and submit something to a gallery?
Bismuth crystals look really cool and are beautifully iridescent. I think they’d make a great art piece if grown in an interesting or unusual way.
- What animal would be the most terrifying if it could speak?
An axolotl ‒ they’re the stuff of nightmares.
- What are some of your Pavlovian responses?
When I hear the (ding) “Attention, Passengers! The next Red Line train to Braintree is now approaching (or arriving)”, I immediately bolt down the stairs.
- What fashion trend makes you cringe or laugh every time you see it?
Roman sandals ‒ not really sure why but they look silly and seem impractical.
- If you lived in a virtual reality world of your own creation, what would it look like?
Many ice cream shops, perpetually good weather, and the T always arrives when I do.
- If animals could talk, which would be the rudest, and why?
Bull-runs and rodeos leave me thinking that bulls aren’t very friendly.
- What’s your favorite holiday movie?
“Elf” is hilarious and still watchable as an adult.
- What elements of pop culture will be forever tied in your mind to your childhood?
Gameboy link cables ‒ a crazy concept to think about these days.
- If cartoon physics suddenly replaced real physics, what are some things you would want to try?
Carry around a life-size tunnel sticker to go through buildings Roadrunner-style.
- What questions would you like to ask a time traveler from 200 years in the future?
So when did you finally get driverless cars?
- If you wanted to slowly drive a roommate insane using only notes, what kind of notes would you leave around the house?
Gradually labelling everything in the apartment with my name.
- What’s the best thing about the place you grew up?
One my few memories from living in Singapore as a toddler was eating a lot of a very popular street food dish there, Hainanese chicken rice. I only recently had the chance to experience it again and it was totally nostalgic for me. I think I’d have it almost every day if I could.
- What would be the worst food to be liquefied and drunk through a straw?
I once got a pack of canned sardines in a themed gift basket. I couldn’t stomach them on their own but I’m certain they’d be far more repulsive as a milkshake.
- What seemingly innocent question makes you think “It’s a trap!”??
“Can you open this?” ‒ I’ll either break the thing or spill its contents onto myself.
- If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what would you have a good chance at winning medal for?
Looking up random facts up on a smartphone at 2 am.
- Who’s your go to band or artist when you can’t decide on something to listen to?
Elton John ‒ all of his hits are timeless gems.
- What two films would you like to combine into one?
We need a Spaceballs/Monty Python-like parody of the Harry Potter movie franchise.
- What fictional character is amazing in their book / show / movie, but would be insufferable if you had to deal with them in mundane everyday situations?
I think Kevin Malone from The Office, while hilarious, wouldn’t be someone I’d enjoy working with. The “Small Talk” skit absolutely kills me, but I think I’d share his coworkers’ frustration if it were real.
Many thanks to Kyan for these thoughtful answers! Stay tuned for more Graduate Student Spotlights in the months to come!