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Graduate Student Spotlight: Tara Sverko

Categories: Students

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

Tara Sverko is a second year graduate student who comes to MIT from Canada. A member of Professor Moungi Bawendi‘s group, her current research focuses on synthesizing and studying semiconductor nanocrystals for applications in quantum information technologies. Sources of entangled light are a crucial component for quantum computing; however, many such current sources are expensive and difficult to manufacture on an industrial scale. In the Bawendi Lab, the group is working to develop and study perovskite nanocrystals for this application, due to their ease of colloidal synthesis and their unique excitonic behavior. Specifically, Tara is working on stabilizing perovskites through synthesizing nanocrystal heterostructures and characterizing their higher excitonic states using correlation spectroscopy.

As the subject of this month’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Tara shares the elements of pop culture forever tied to her childhood, the scariest nonhorror movie she’s seen, the piece of art she’d create if she were to pretend to be an artist, and more!

  1. How did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
    Accidentally! I started my undergrad in Geology, but quickly realized that identifying rocks was not my passion. I switched into Chemistry on a whim and stayed ever since. About halfway through my degree, I realized I also like Physics, so I chose physical chemistry for grad school. Since coming to MIT, I’ve gone with the flow and ended up on a project that I really enjoy!
  2. If your five-year-old self suddenly found themselves inhabiting your current body, what would your five-year-old self do first?
    I would probably be overwhelmed. But after that I’d eat chocolate for dinner with no parents to tell me no.
  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?
    Toph in Avatar the Last Airbender.
  4. What’s the scariest nonhorror movie?
    Any documentary on the climate crisis is pretty terrifying.
  5. What fashion trend makes you cringe or laugh every time you see it?
    Fanny packs.
  6. If you lived in a virtual reality world of your own creation, what would it look like?
    There would be a lot of good restaurants. And cars would be banned!
  7. 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?
    I’m currently really into tiny houses, so I’d airdrop my dream tiny house into some sort of wilderness somewhere.
  8. What’s your favorite holiday movie?
    Love Actually!
  9. What seemingly innocent question makes you think “It’s a trap!”?
    Whenever a non-science person asks me what I study. The reply is always, “Chemistry? I hated it in high school.”
  10. What elements of pop culture will be forever tied in your mind to your childhood?
    Hollister, ring pops, and High School Musical. The early 2000s were a wild time.
  11. If cartoon physics suddenly replaced real physics, what are some things you would want to try?
    I’m afraid of heights, but I wouldn’t have to be if I lived in a cartoon world.
  12. What’s the most rage inducing game you’ve ever played?
    ‘Sorry!’ is the worst game ever invented. Change my mind.
  13. What piece of “art” would you create if you had to pretend to be an artist and submit something to a gallery?
    I still sometimes think about the banana that was duct taped to a wall at a gallery. I’d probably go with that theme and submit some of my quarantine bread.
  14. What’s the best thing about the place you grew up?
    The nature. Nova Scotia has some of the most beautiful scenery!
  15. What would be the worst food to be liquefied and drunk through a straw?
    Fried chicken, because it’s really all about the texture.
  16. What two films would you like to combine into one?
    This is a tough question. What if in the Matrix they woke up into another dream and then it was really just Inception?
  17. What are some of your Pavlovian responses?
    When I smell coffee I instantly feel more awake. Does that count?
  18. 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?
    It would have to be a hat so functional that all others would be rendered useless. I’m thinking, umbrella hat with sunglasses, possibly even an earmuff option. Versatile, functional, and eye-catching.
  19. If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what would you have a good chance at winning medal for?
    Sleeping in weird positions. I’ve even fallen asleep while standing during a concert!
  20. Who’s your go to band or artist when you can’t decide on something to listen to?
    Arctic Monkeys!

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