Graduate Student Spotlight: Sam Bartko

Categories: Students

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

Sam Bartko has been at MIT for four years, and comes to Cambridge from Cheyenne, Wyoming. A member of Professor Rick Danheiser‘s group, Sam’s research is focused on the design of convergent methods for the synthesis of highly substituted pyridines and other heterocycles.

As a subject of July’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Sam reveals the job he aspired to as a five year old, the song that never fails to make him happy, the house he’d build with unlimited funds, and more!


1. What random job do you think you’d be really good at?
A chicken herder.

2. If I asked you at age 5 what you wanted to be when you grew up, what would you say?
A baseball player.

3. What song makes you unconditionally happy?
Red Red Wine by Bob Marley.

4. What would be your ideal way to spend the weekend?
Exploring Boston with my wife.

5. What are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years?
I’m looking forward to graduating with a PhD.

6. Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?
Nikola Tesla.

7. What would be your Hogwarts patronus?
A cat.

8. Who is the most famous person you have met?
Chris Kattan.

9. Why did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
I decided to pursue chemistry out of interest and curiosity.  The idea of manipulating matter in a predictable way is really cool.

10. What are your top three favorite movies?
The Big Lebowski, The Matrix, and Super Troopers.

11. Who is on the guest list for your ideal dinner party?
Shinzen Young, Alan Watts, Maynard James Keenan.

12. If you had unlimited funds to build a house that you would live in for the rest of your life, what would the finished house be like?
It would be really big, with many different passageways and multiple ways to get to various rooms.

13. What bends your mind every time you think about it?
Who am I?

14. Who would be the best person you could be stuck in an elevator with?
Daniel Ingram.

15. Who, besides your parents, has had the greatest impact on your life?
My wife, Marissa.

16. What hobby would you get into if time and money weren’t an issue?
Scuba Diving.

17. If you could pick any career other than the one you’ve chosen, what would it be?
I’d want to be a pro golfer.

18. What stereotype do you completely live up to?
I’m not sure!

19. What have you only recently formed an opinion about?
The best way to cook vegetables.

20. What skill would you like to master?
Time management.

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