Michael Lee lays on his side, backlit by an art installation that is a lit purple circle with a smaller pink circle inside of it. Michael is a dark shadow in front of these two circles.

Graduate Student Spotlight: Michael Lee

Categories: Students

Chemistry Graduate Student Michael Lee describes his research and answers 20 random questions as part of the Graduate Student Spotlight series.

Michael Lee is a third year graduate student in Professor Brad Pentelute‘s group who comes to MIT from Pacifica, California, a small town just south of San Francisco.

“I decided to pursue a PhD in chemistry when I realized during my undergrad in chemical engineering that all of my favorite classes were the chemistry courses, rather than the engineering ones,” said Michael. “That led me to joining a lab doing peptide synthesis, which eventually brought me to the Pentelute lab.”

Michael works on discovering peptidomimetics binders to protein targets in order to improve delivery of therapeutics to specific tissues. He’s also been doing some work with machine learning to investigate what factors lead to these interactions.

As the subject of September’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Michael shares the small things that improve his day, the unique honor that the town he grew up in can claim, the most interesting place he’s visited, and more.

  1. If you were on a 27 hour flight and could only watch one movie, what would it be?
    Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which I already watched for 13 hours in various languages I do not speak while on a flight to Seoul
  2. What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
    When I was younger, my family would go camping up in Mount Shasta. My cousins would drive up from San Diego too, and it would be a swell time. We had a ping pong table that had a large piece bitten out of it by a bear.
  3. What are some small things that make your day better?
    Going on small adventures during breaks with my coworkers 🙂
  4. What’s worth spending more on to get the best?
    Toilet paper
  5. If you suddenly became a master at woodworking, what would you make?
    It’s a bit more than just woodworking, but I would like to be able to make my own pianos
  6. What is special about the place you grew up?
    So there’s this Taco Bell there that’s allegedly the most scenic Taco Bell in the world. Buzzfeed publishes an article every year or so, and all of my friends from home on Facebook talk about it like “Hey I’ve been there!” or “Hey I remember when I saw my trigonometry teacher with his 9 year son there at 1 am on a Thursday.” – that person is me, also my trigonometry teacher hated me
  7. If someone narrated your life, who would you want to be the narrator?
    Sir David Attenborough, I feel like he could make my routine lab work seem more interesting
  8. Where is the most interesting place you’ve been?
    One time I went to the “Third Infiltration Tunnel” at the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea. It’s a (formerly) secret tunnel that North Korea tried to build under the DMZ to invade the south, but was discovered, sealed off, and turned into a tourist attraction. There was a water fountain of North Korean water that was actually very refreshing.
  9. What movie, picture, or video always makes you laugh no matter how often you watch it?
    This gif.
  10. If money and practicality weren’t a problem, what would be the most interesting way to get around town?
    By palanquin, carried by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson impersonator
  11. What food do you crave most often?
    Taco bell, but specifically the beefy 5-layer burrito
  12. What is your secret talent?
    Calibrating various units of measure (i.e. volume, length) to parts of my hand
  13. What one thing do you really want but can’t afford?
    Housing 🙂
  14. What are your top three favorite movies?
    Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, and Fantastic Mr. Fox. I think the three of those pretty effectively summarize my movie preferences.
  15. Who is the most famous person you have met?
    Rob Schneider: he’s from my hometown, and he was the one to fund all of the arts programs at the local schools. As part of it, he would come to some of our concerts. Also we worked in fundraisers with his family selling Christmas trees.
  16. What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience for the first time again?
  17. Where are some unusual places you’ve been?
    One summer, I went to the Salton Sea in southern California and visited a place called “Salvation Mountain,” which is essentially a large mural/”hillside visionary environment” (a la Wikipedia) in the middle of the desert. Also, there is the international banana museum nearby, which was just a bunch of pictures of bananas in some guy’s house
  18. What inconsequential super power would you like to have?
    I already have the incredible super power to hit every single red light whenever I drive anywhere. It’s made me the kind of person that leaves an hour early for a trip that would take 15 minutes
  19. Who would be in the lineup for your ideal music festival?
    RAF Camora, MC Bonez, GRiNGO, De Jeugd Van Tegenwoordig, and Laidback Luke
  20. What bends your mind every time you think about it?
    How Chuck E. Cheese’s full name is Charles Entertainment Cheese

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