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Graduate Student Spotlight: Michael Payne

Categories: Students

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

Michael (Mike) Payne grew up in Traverse City, Michigan, though most of his family is from Tennessee. He’s been at MIT since the fall of 2017, and is a member of Professor Mircea Dincă‘s research group. Mike’s research lies at the interface of organometallic chemistry and materials science. He uses metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), a class of crystalline materials defined by their permanent porosity, to host single-site platinum group metal catalysts in a heterogeneous scaffold. Once a well-defined ligand environment is prepared in a MOF, often based on model homogeneous compounds, Mike studies how this site can be tuned for catalysis post-synthetically by techniques such as cation and ligand exchange. Ultimately, his aim is to develop characterization and design methodology that leverages the unique properties of MOFs for industrially relevant small molecule transformations.

As the subject of July 2019’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Mike shares the movie universe he would least like to live in, his favorite book of all time, and more!

  1. How did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
    I was already interested in the structure-function relationships in organometallic chemistry, and so when I learned about MOFs I was excited about what seemed to be virtually endless structural possibilities. I thought the way in which MOFs were blurring the line between homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis was particularly interesting because it makes the field highly multidisciplinary, heavily drawing from all of organic, inorganic, physical, and biological chemistry, materials science, solid state physics and engineering. I wanted to explore diverse structural chemistry and take advantage of this intrinsically collaborative field, so MOFs it was.
  2. What is your dream car or other mode of transportation?
    The SpaceX Roadster if it someday lands back on Earth
  3. If you had a personal flag, what would be on it??
    An outline of an old time mafia boss whose hat says "The MOFia" and whose suit is patterned with metal-organic frameworks (MOFs).
  4. What weird food combinations do you really enjoy?
    Pizza and ranch dressing.
  5. If magic was real, what spell would you try to learn first?
  6. In ancient Egypt, people were buried with the items they would need in the afterlife – what would you want buried with you so you could use it in the afterlife?
    My glasses and clean underwear.
  7. What is special about the place you grew up?
    Traverse City is the cherry capital of the planet.
  8. What brand are you most loyal to?
    Palladium boots.
  9. Would you rather have a flying carpet or a car that can drive underwater?
    Underwater car, flying carpets would be hard to keep clean.
  10. If you received a salary to follow whatever passion you wanted to, what would you do?
    Play cello.
  11. What toy played the biggest part in your childhood, and why?
    Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the first in a long line of video game consoles.
  12. What TV show or movie do you refuse to watch?
    Game of Thrones, never got around to it and I hear the series finale was bad so I am finally free of this 70-hour burden.
  13. What is your favorite book of all time?
    The Phantom Tollbooth.
  14. Which is your favorite city in the world?
    Schwabisch Hall, Germany.
  15. What did you think you would grow out of but haven’t?
    Candy that is so sour it makes your tongue hurt.
  16. Who are three of your favorite fictional characters?
    Walter White, Wendy Byrde, and Patrick Star.
  17. What food is delicious, but a pain to eat?
    Fresh lotus seeds from the pod.
  18. If you were given one thousand acres of land that you didn’t need to pay taxes on but couldn’t sell, what would you do with it?
    I would let nature reclaim it and it would become my own little national park.
  19. What outdoor activity haven’t you tried, but would like to?
    Scuba diving.
  20. What movie universe would be the worst to live out your life in?
    Jumanjii (1995).

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