Nicole Moody poses before a T-Rex Skeleton

Graduate Student Spotlight: Nicole Moody

Categories: Students

Chemistry Graduate Student Nicole Moody describes her research and answers 20 random questions as part of the Graduate Student Spotlight series.

Nicole Moody arrived at MIT in the Fall of 2015 after completing her undergraduate studies at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Originally from Kerrville, Texas, Nicole is a rising fourth year graduate student in Professor Moungi Bawendi‘s group. Her current research focuses on characterizing and mitigating the toxicological impacts of lead-based emerging thin film photovoltaic technologies. Using Environmental Protection Agency protocols, Nicole is able to examine lead leaching of perovskite and quantum dot solar cells in a landfill setting, and determine the efficacy of barrier films, encapsulation methods, and alternative synthesis protocols. So far, she has employed the EPA’s Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure to identify a quantum dot device fabrication protocol that would allow for safe disposal of solar cells in even an unlined landfill, and she is attempting to use functionalized polymers to recapture lead leached from perovskite photovoltaics.

As the subject of August 2018’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Nicole shares the video that never fails to make her laugh, the inconsequential super power she’d like to obtain, the most amazing place in nature she’s visited, and more!

1. How did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
My original plan for my thesis was to optimize a low-cost, high-throughput fabrication protocol for quantum dot solar cells. I dreamed of unfurling a giant flexible QD solar panel on the table in front of my thesis committee. However, I recently pivoted and now examine the toxicological implications of quantum dot and perovskite photovolatics. So many people in the field of emerging thin film solar are trying to push the technology to larger and larger areas, but few are looking closely at how the panels will need to be disposed of. I try and draw inspiration from the famous quote from Dr. Ian Malcolm of Jurassic Park, “Scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” I’m trying to figure out if we should be pursuing solar panels with lead-based active layers.

2. When you are old, what do you think children will ask you to tell stories about?
Probably the “old timey” technology I grew up with. I taught a workshop to middle school students awhile back that used film, and it blew the kids minds that the images “magically appeared” on the film roll. Meanwhile they all had cellphones with sophisticated digital cameras.

3. What movie, picture, or video always makes you laugh no matter how often you watch it?
Hands down it’s the I can’t stop manatee video.

4. What’s the most interesting documentary you’ve ever watched?
I thoroughly enjoyed Netflix’s eight-part documentary series “The Toys That Made Us.” It was so interesting to learn about the triumphs, disasters, and sometimes the sheer dumb luck experienced by the toy companies that shaped my childhood.

5. What bit of trivia do you know that is very interesting but also very useless?
Since I attend Trivia Night every Tuesday at the Thirsty Ear Pub, there’s no such thing as useless trivia to me. I’m always looking to learn more useless facts!

6. What movie universe would be the worst to live out your life in?
Either Waterworld (too much water) or Mad Max Fury Road (not enough water)

7. What’s the most ridiculous animal on the planet?
The blobfish. It’s basically just a puddle of goo.

8. What scientific discovery would change the course of humanity overnight if it was discovered?
I don’t think there’s any technology that can go from discovery to widespread implementation overnight (with the exception of some sort of doomsday weapon that was accidentally detonated). I am fascinated by the implications of cultured meat. We could replace giant factory farms that are extremely harmful to the environment with labs that only need to biopsy animals instead of slaughter them. It would be an efficient solution to a growing population’s need for protein.

9. What would your perfect bar look like?
As the current President of the Thirsty Ear Executive Committee, I feel obligated to say it would look identical to the Thirsty Ear Pub. Maybe with some of my homebrew available for purchase.

10. What movie or book do you know the most quotes from?
Do poems count? I memorized “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow back in 6th grade and I can still recite it by heart. I also know a lot of quotes from The Crucible since I played Mary Warren in two separate productions.

11. What inconsequential super power would you like to have?
The ability to do mundane tasks that could require several attempts (i.e. threading a needle, opening a tightly sealed jar, throwing waste into the trash) on the first try every time.

12. If you could make a holiday, what would it be like? What traditions would it have? What would people eat on your holiday? 
It would be really cool to give everyone a day off of work to go volunteer somewhere. Then afterwards there would be a giant dance party with empanadas and soft serve ice cream.

13. What did you believe for way too long as a child?
I thought that since people’s heads didn’t seem to grow as quickly as their bodies did, their heads probably detached from their bodies while they were sleeping so they wouldn’t grow as quickly. No clue where this theory came from…

14. What’s the most amazing place in nature you’ve been?
The summit of Mt. Fuji at sunrise

15. What’s the best thing about the place you grew up?
Getting involved in community theater and being close to my grandparents’ farm. It was my job to feed the chickens when we visited.

16. What is something that is popular now that annoys you?
Live action Disney reboots. They’re just shallow cash grabs aimed at millenials, and unfortunately, they’re wildly successful.

17. What is your guilty pleasure?
Currently, it’s the Netflix show “Nailed It” in which home bakers try (and fail) to recreate edible masterpieces. I also love video essays that critique modern media with various theoretical frameworks.

18. What is the silliest fear you have?
Dying in the void of space. It’s silly because it should be pretty easy to avoid.

19. Do you like reality TV shows? Why or why not? If so, which ones?
I like a very specific type of reality TV show: food competitions. Not for practical reasons like getting recipes or anything; I just really like watching people make pretty food (or even just trying to).  Halloween Wars is a special seasonal favorite.

20. Where would you like to travel next?
I’d love to visit Israel or Vatican City sometime soon on a Catholic pilgrimage. St. Peter’s Basilica is definitely on my bucket list!

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