A male graduate student sits at a Japanese restaurant displaying a box of sushi.

Graduate Student Spotlight: Sam Kazer

Categories: Students

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

Sam Kazer grew up moving around from Minnesota to Michigan to New York to Colorado, and is finishing up his fifth year at MIT as a member of Professor Alex Shalek‘s group. His research aims to utilize single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) to characterize the immune response to primary HIV-1 infection. Applying scRNA-seq to longitudinal samples from the blood of individuals with acute infection, Sam measures the phenotypes of multiple immune cellular types, at high-resolution, over the course of infection. Through hypothesis generating analyses, he is powered to nominate critical immune proteins and cell subsets in the host response to HIV infection. Sam’s hope is that these analyses can inform future vaccine and therapeutic designs.

As the subject of May 2019’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Sam shares the fictional character he would least like to deal with in real life, the thing he’d like to experience if cartoon physics replaced real physics, his favorite part of one of the many places he grew up, and more!

  1. How did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
    I ended up joining Alex Shalek’s lab after we chatted about the exciting work he was proposing to do in his lab. One of the first projects in the lab was working with scientists in South Africa on the HIV epidemic; I was interested in learning how RNA-sequencing could be used to answer questions in infectious disease.
  2. If your five-year-old self suddenly found themselves inhabiting your current body, what would your five-year-old self do first?
    Probably watch Barney or Sesame Street all day.
  3. What fictional character is amazing in their book / show / movie, but would be insufferable if you had to deal with them in mundane everyday situations?
    Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski.
  4. What animal would be the most terrifying if it could speak?
    A raccoon.
  5. What’s the scariest non-horror movie?
    When I was kid, I thought that Ursula in The Little Mermaid was quite scary.
  6. What fashion trend makes you cringe or laugh every time you see it?
  7. If you lived in a virtual reality world of your own creation, what would it look like?
    Probably like my current reality. There are some scientists who posit that we actually are already living in a virtual world.
  8. If you could airdrop anything you want, worth two million dollars or less, anywhere you want, what would you airdrop and where would you airdrop it?
    Water purifiers to areas across the world without access to clean water.
  9. What’s your favorite holiday movie?
    Not technically a movie, but I love the Rugrats Passover Special.
  10. What elements of pop culture will be forever tied in your mind to your childhood?
    That blue and purple line design (now called the 90’s Jazz design) that was on disposable cups, plates, and more.
  11. If cartoon physics suddenly replaced real physics, what are some things you would want to try?
    Running off a cliff, hanging out in the air, and then running back onto the cliff before realizing there is no ground below me.
  12. What questions would you like to ask a time traveler from 200 years in the future?
    How badly did man made climate change destroy the world? In what scientific discipline should we be investing?
  13. What’s the most rage inducing game you’ve ever played?
  14. What’s the best thing about the place you grew up?
    For the part of my life that I lived in Denver, Colorado, I loved seeing the mountains on the western horizon on clear days.
  15. What would be the worst food to be liquefied and drunk through a straw?
  16. 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?
    I don’t like wearing hats, so let’s go with a small fez.
  17. If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what would you have a good chance at winning medal for?
    Eating fried food.
  18. Who’s your go to band or artist when you can’t decide on something to listen to?
    Daft Punk.
  19. What two films would you like to combine into one?
    Harry Potter 7 Parts 1 and 2.
  20. What seemingly innocent question makes you think “It’s a trap!”?
    “So, what did you really think of <insert movie/tv show here>?”

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