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Graduate Student Spotlight: Maria Castellanos Morales

Categories: Students

Chemistry Graduate Student Maria Castellanos Morales describes her research and answers 20 random questions as part of the Graduate Student Spotlight series.

Maria Castellanos Morales has been at MIT for two years and is from Colombia. As a member of Professor Adam Willard’s research group, Maria’s research focuses on the study of molecular circuits made from coulombically bonded pairs of electrons and holes (excitons), resulting, for example, from electronically exciting dye molecules with laser pulses. She intends to use these molecular circuits as a means to design a novel platform for quantum computation. Quantum computers, which are devices based on qubits (a linear combination of bits, 0 and 1), are usually very expensive to build and require extremely low temperatures to operate. Maria’s research aims to exploit the properties of molecular excitons to design a cheap and efficient platform for quantum computing that could potentially work at room temperature.

As the subject of this month’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Maria shares the thing she believed for too long as a child, the superpower she’d like to have, the unusual food combinations she enjoys, and more!

  1. How did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
    I’ve wanted to work on something related to Quantum Computing since I first heard of it, back in my second year in undergrad. When my advisor, told be about this project he had on using electronically excited molecules to build quantum computers, it was just what I needed to hear. After that, I decided to join the group and work on that specifically.
  2. What hobby would you get into if time and money weren’t an issue?
    I used to play the violin before coming here. I would love to get back to that if I had more time (and money, to buy a nice violin).
  3. What fictional place would you most like to go?
    I have always wanted to go to Hogwarts.
  4. What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience for the first time again?
    Maybe Game of Thrones, I would love to watch it as it was the first time and tell myself to skip the last season.
  5. What weird food combinations do you really enjoy?
    I love putting lemon on my rice (I think that’s weird). I also like dipping my fries in ice cream (that’s definitely weird).
  6. If you had a personal flag, what would be on it?
    I’m not sure, but it’ll be pink and with puppies on it.
  7. What movie can you watch over and over without ever getting tired of?
    Disney’s Hercules. I have watched enough times I’ve memorized most of the dialogues.
  8. Where are some unusual places you’ve been?
    I’ve been to many beautiful and unusual places in my home country. For example, there is a national park to which you access by hiking through a dense jungle and reach the most beautiful beach. The sunsets on that place are the most beautiful and unusual thing I’ve ever experienced!
  9. If someone narrated your life, who would you want to be the narrator?
    Morgan Freeman would be cool.
  10. What TV show character would it be the most fun to change places with for a week?
    Timmy Turner from the Fairly OddParents. When I was a kid I always wanted to have my own fairy godparents (and It wouldn’t hurt to have unlimited wishes for a week even now!).
  11. What is special about where you grew up?
    Everything! The weather is really nice and warm, people are very friendly and lively and the food is delicious!
  12. What’s the most ridiculous animal on the planet?
  13. What’s the best thing about the place you grew up?
    The food. It’s the thing I miss the most about my country!
  14. What inconsequential super power would you like to have?
    The ability to teleport for short distances, so I’m not late to most of my classes and meetings.
  15. What’s incredibly cheap and you would pay way more for?
    Bananas. I’d definitely pay more for those, they’re tasty and very filling.
  16. What did you believe for way too long as a child?
    That the moon was following me while driving in the car.
  17. What two things are terrible when separate but great when you put them together?
    Celery and peanut butter. I don’t like either of them by itself but love them together.
  18. What fictional characters have you had a crush on over the years?
    Maybe Gale from The Hunger Games and Troy Bolton from the High School Musical movies. I also had a lot of crushes with animated characters, like Lelouch vi Britannia from Code Geass or Flynn Rider from Tangled.
  19. If you owned a restaurant, what kind of food would it serve?
    Colombian food.
  20. What would be the hat to end all hats? What could you wear on your head that would make people stop what they are doing and stare in awe and amazement?
    It would be a top hat for sure. Maybe one with a puppy on top of it?

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