Chemistry Graduate Student Raymundo Moya describes his research and answers 20 random questions as part of the Graduate Student Spotlight series.
Raymundo Moya comes to MIT from Los Fresnos, Texas, a small town in the Rio Grande Valley with a current population of “a bustling” 5,000 people. Ray credits his hometown as “a wonderful place on the border by the sea predominately defined by it’s Mexican-American population. I like to think we invented the breakfast taco, and if something exists, you can find it in a tortilla. It’s home and I miss the cacti, the Spanglish, and the people every day.” He has been at MIT for 3.5 years, and is currently a fourth year graduate student in Professor Gabriela Schlau-Cohen‘s group. There, Ray is working on developing a new spectroscopic technique that combines ultrafast spectroscopy with single-molecule fluorescence microscopy to study energy transfer rates in photosynthesis. Nature has evolved to transfer energy from sunlight to the reaction center with incredible efficiency in a very messy and noisy environment. Ray and his labmates aim to understand how protein conformation and slow dynamics control and regulate the ultrafast energy transfer steps that take place every day. By understanding the underlying energy transfer principles, they can apply this knowledge to artificial light-harvesting devices.
As the subject of this month’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Ray shares his idea of the hat to end all hats, the unusual places he’s been, the person he’d like to narrate his life, and more!
- How did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
I came here with an interest in building new experimental set-ups to investigate fundamental scientific questions. There are some really cool questions left in our understanding of photosynthesis and teasing out these intricate details was really interesting. Gabriela gave me the opportunity to combine laser techniques with these complex biological techniques and I thought it was just the coolest thing. And who doesn’t like to play with lasers and mirrors for fun?
- What hobby would you get into if time and money weren’t an issue?
Ultrarunning . I’d love to move out to the middle of nowhere out west and just spend my days running in circles through the mountains. Paying stupid amounts of money to run 100 mile races through the desert or the Andes.
- What fictional place would you most like to go?
Bikini Bottom. Who doesn’t actually want to try a Krabby Patty or go jellyfishing?
- What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience for the first time again?
I think I’d have to go with Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I feel like that makes me a little lame and predictable, but it’s got to be one of the wackiest endings I’ve seen and I still can’t process it.
- What weird food combinations do you really enjoy?
The Mexican classic of putting chile powder on fruit (tajin on watermelon, mango, or pineapple. Oh man!)
- 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?
The bedazzled cowboy hat my grandfather wears seriously to formal events.
- Where are some unusual places you’ve been?
I’ve slept in a tipi in the desert once (with a scorpion or two on the floor) and then in an airstream with giant googly eyes and eyelashes the next day.
- In the past 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?
Any kind of method to make coffee. The more pretentious the better.
- If someone narrated your life, who would you want to be the narrator?
I’m going to go with Sir Patrick Earl Stewart. That man just talks in the most beautiful sentences. The Shakespearean rhythm in his speech is real.
- What would be the best thing you could reasonably expect to find in a cave?
Hidden Treasure. Or a map to hidden treasure. The finding might make for a little more fun.
- If you could know the truth behind every conspiracy, but you would instantly die if you hinted that you knew the truth, would you want to know?
Nah, ignorance is bliss. And what’s the point of knowing things if you don’t get to gossip about it in hushed tones?
- What’s the most ridiculous animal on the planet?
The chihuahua. I love these things, but come on, is it a dog or a rat? Why does anyone want these things other than they’re ugly and fun-sized.
- What’s the best thing about the place you grew up?
The foods hands down. Homemade tortillas. Bistek tacos. Fresh fish from the gulf of Mexico. Grapefruits, mangos, Mexican sweet bread, and random spicy sweets. Pair that with a big family around a kitchen table and life’s perfect.
- What inconsequential super power would you like to have?
I would want the ability to change people’s taste buds without them knowing. All the people who were mean to me would have their chocolate taste like soap.
- If you wanted to slowly drive a roommate insane using only notes, what kind of notes would you leave around the house?
“Shouldn’t you be working?”
- What’s incredibly cheap and you would pay way more for?
A phone call to back home.
- What fictional characters have you had a crush on over the years?
Tina Fey who basically plays herself in 30 Rock. Also, The Rock, who basically plays the Rock in anything he does.
- What two things are terrible when separate but great when you put them together?
Snow + controlled falling = falling while pretending to ski.
- What did you believe for way too long as a child?
When I was little, I was once too lazy to pick pennies out of the dust after sweeping the house. My older sister told me that if I threw away money, the police would come to my house and take me to jail. I want to say I believed that up until a couple years ago, when I thought about it and realized, there’s no way the cops could figure out I threw away money. To be honest, I’m still not sure if a person can get in trouble for trashing money.
- If you owned a restaurant, what kind of food would it serve?
Life dream is a brewery-taco truck combo.
Many thanks to Ray for these thoughtful answers! Stay tuned for more Graduate Student Spotlights in the months to come!