Chemistry Graduate Student Kyaw Hpone Myint describes his research and answers 20 random questions as part of the Graduate Student Spotlight series.
Kyaw Hpone Myint is originally from Myanmar, but came to the United States for his undergraduate studies, and has been a PhD student at MIT since 2017. A member of Professor Adam Willard‘s group, Kyaw studies cation catalytic effects in electron transfer reactions which has the potential to impact design of batteries, improving battery efficiency. His daily responsibilities as a PhD researcher include running molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, using statistical mechanics tools to extract useful insights from MD simulations, and interpreting the data using various visualization tools.
Kyaw’s interest in physical sciences was initially sparked by his life at home. Growing up in a four sibling household headed by a single mother, he took on the role of family handyman. Applying these skills nurtured his passion for physics, and when he learned about Haber process for making nitrogen fertilizer in middle school, he was immediately captivated by the beauty of chemistry. These exposure to physical sciences led Kyaw to his decision to major in Physics and Chemistry during his undergraduate years at Berea College. There, he conducted summer work with Dr. Barbara Wyslouzil and Dr. Lisa Hall at the Ohio State University, and he got hands-on experience doing MD simulations and experimental works. “I was so fascinated by using MD simulations to explore physical properties of different molecules that I would think about doing MD simulations in my dreams back then,” said Kyaw. “That was how I figured out that I wanted to pursue a PhD in theoretical chemistry which combines both of my favorite childhood subjects!”
As the subject of this Graduate Student Spotlight, Kyaw reveals who he’d most prefer to be trapped with in an elevator, the movie he’d like to experience all over again for the first time, a bit of useless trivia, and more!
- What’s the most interesting documentary you’ve ever watched?
Broadside: Emerging Empires Collide. It is a very interesting documentary set in 17th century about English and Dutch waging wars over the control of the world trade. I always wondered how England became a naval superpower during the 18th and 19th That documentary gives a pretty good overview of the origin of royal navy, and how England’s intense rivalry with Dutch eventually made them the naval superpower of the time.
- What bit of trivia do you know that is very interesting but also very useless?
Octopuses have six arms and two legs. They use two hind limbs for crawling and maneuvering around the sea floor, and use the remaining limbs for swimming and handling foods.
- Who would be the best person you could be stuck in an elevator with?
Edward Bloom from the 2003 movie Big Fish. I feel like he will probably keep me entertained with all his fantastical life encounters!
- What are some small things that make your day better?
A cup of freshly ground/brewed, mildly roasted coffee made from arabica beans in the morning, and also as I get older, I really appreciate when people show kindness toward each other (like holding door for others and helping out people in need).
- What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
I used to train my pup to follow commands. So, I can probably give a 40-minute presentation on dog training without any preparation.
- What movie title best describes your life?
Pursuit of Happyness, it is a biographical movie based on the memoir of Chris Gardner. It recounts the story of how he became a millionaire while overcoming his struggle with homelessness. Coming from a single mother family in a developing country, my family and I struggled a lot growing up, and I can relate very well to his story. The movie always reminds me to stay positive, work hard no matter what the current situation is, and encourages me to pursue greater things in life!
- What did you think you would grow out of but haven’t?
Staying up late and being a night owl
- If someone narrated your life, who would you want to be the narrator?
Morgan Freeman! He has such a deep and commanding voice that makes whatever he is saying sounds legit haha.
- If animals could talk, which animal do you think would be the most annoying, and why?
Probably crabs. I feel like they will be constantly complaining about how they cannot walk straight.
- What food do you crave most often?
Watermelons! They are sweet and have lots of fibers to keep you full. They also have very low calorie density which makes them perfect snacks. 🙂
- What’s the funniest TV show you’ve ever seen?
Rick and Morty. I have a two-word answer for why it is the funniest show ever: “Pickle Rick!!!”
- What one thing do you really want but can’t afford?
I am currently getting flight training to get my private pilot license (many thanks to Juanye Zhang from Bawendi lab for all his very useful tips about how to obtain one!!!) So, one thing I really want would be to have my own military fighter jet one day.
- What is on your bucket list?
Go backpacking in Europe, 2. get a private pilot license, 3. Become a competent piano player, 4. Become a good AI researcher!
- 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?
If I have unlimited funds, my house would have a sound-proof room with a grand piano, a built-in hangar with a private jet, a very well-equipped gym, and an entertainment room with a home cinema! Also, I am a big fan of natural lights so I want French windows in all the living room and bedrooms!
- What are your top three favorite movies?
- Pursuit of Happyness
- Forrest Gump
- The Shawshank Redemption
- What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
I am currently going through flight training to get my pilot license. So, I think it would be cool to circumnavigate the world in a private plane once I get my license!
- What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience for the first time again?
Top Gun: Maverick. Like Tom Cruise said in the title sequence, it is a love letter to aviation!!! I saw it two times in theatre: first in Dolby cinema and then in standard format. I missed the chance to see it in IMAX. I feel like it is a movie that I will enjoy watching in IMAX even without erasing it from my memory. But, it would be cool to have watched it in IMAX first time around!
- What problem or situation did TV / movies make you think would be common, but when you grew up you found out it wasn’t?
People confessing love out of blue. Although it might sound romantic, it never worked out well in practice for me at least lol.
- What are the best and worst purchases you’ve ever made?
The best purchase is probably my Dutch bike. I waited the longest time to bike in Boston, but my friend introduced me to blue bike last semester, and I have been biking around the city ever since. I finally invested in a good Dutch bike and an 80L pannier to get groceries with it. I have to say Boston is a very bike friendly city, and it is really fun to go grocery shopping with your own bike knowing you can carry 50-60lb of groceries back using a pannier.
The worst purchase I have done is probably buying subscription to an online auction/gambling site. I was lured in by a deceiving online ad claiming I can win free iPads on that website, and I fell for their scam. I would have to say that was not in my best judgement to make that purchase hahah.
- Where was the most amazing sunset you have ever seen?
Probably at Coughlin Park in Winthrop, MA while spotting planes landing in Logan International Airport. If the wind is right, the plane landing there would fly directly over the park and you would have a great view of the sunset, the planes, and also the ocean! I got lots of really great pictures last time I was there for sunset!
Many thanks to Kyaw for these thoughtful answers! Stay tuned for more Graduate Student Spotlights in the months to come!