Zachary Fried smiles wearing a hard hat.

Graduate Student Spotlight: Zachary Fried

Categories: Students

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

Originally from Florida, Zachary Fried primarily grew up overseas, in Hong Kong. He is a second year graduate student in Professor Brett McGuire‘s group, and credits his interest in researching the unknowns with inspiring him to pursue a PhD in chemistry.

“Astrochemistry is an especially exciting and compelling field of study since there is still so much that we do not understand about the physical and chemical processes that occur in space,” said Zachary. “Until recently, in order to model interstellar abundances and predict new molecules for detection, observations have relied on complex chemical models based on a vast network of interconnected reactions. In an attempt to predict molecular abundances without the need for complete networks, a previous member of the McGuire group developed a method involving machine learning that requires no knowledge of the conditions of an interstellar source or any of the reaction pathways involving previously detected molecules. I am currently working to expand these machine learning techniques by including isotopically substituted molecules that provide important insight into molecular formation and astrophysical history. I am also applying these methods to an interstellar source further along the path of star-formation that contains unique chemistry. Moving forward, I hope to apply machine learning methods to increase the efficiency and automation of rotational spectroscopy.”

As the subject of this month’s Graduate Student Spotlight, Zachary shares the hobby he’d take up if time and money were no object, the food he most often craves, some of the unusual places he’s traveled, and more!

  1. What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation?
    Anything related to the Tampa Bay Rays. Most of my time not thinking about chemistry is spent watching/following the Rays.
  2. An epic feast is held in your honor, what’s on the table?
    Turkey and stuffing. If I could eat Thanksgiving dinner for every meal, I absolutely would.
  3. What hobby would you get into if time and money weren’t an issue?
    Cooking. I love to cook but frequently don’t have the time/energy. I end up resorting to Trader Joe’s frozen meals more often than I’d like to admit.
  4. What food do you crave most often?
    Ben and Jerry’s chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and Diet Coke. Being lactose intolerant makes my love of ice cream especially unfortunate.
  5. What are your top three favorite movies?
    Field of Dreams, Anchorman, and Miracle.
  6. What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
    I spent a week hiking in Nepal a few years ago. The entire trip was an absolute once-in-a-lifetime experience.
  7. Who would be in the lineup for your ideal music festival?
    Anything with San Holo (look him up if you don’t know him). He’s definitely my favorite musician of all time. I’ve seen him in concert twice now and they’ve been two of the best concerts I’ve ever attended. I’ve also been in the top 0.05% of his Spotify listeners for a few years.
  8. What is special about the place you grew up?
    Growing up in Hong Kong was an amazing opportunity. From the food to the culture, everything about Hong Kong is incredible.
  9. What irrational fear do you have?
    Snakes. I can’t stand them. I even have a tough time going to the reptile exhibit at the zoo.
  10. Where are some unusual places you’ve been?
    I was able to visit the Green Bank Observatory in Green Bank, WV this past year. It’s in the radio quiet zone so there was no access to Bluetooth or cellular. It was especially nice to get off the grid for a week.
  11. What one thing do you really want but can’t afford?
    I’d love to go to the Super Bowl one day. I’ll have to wait until the next time the Bucs make it, however.
  12. Who is the most famous person you have met?
    I met the remaining members of The Beach Boys at a concert in 2017.
  13. What is on your bucket list?
    I’ve always wanted to go to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
  14. What skill would you like to master?
    Playing golf.
  15. What’s the funniest TV show you’ve ever seen?
    The Office. It’s my go-to show for binge-watching.
  16. If you could have a never-ending candle that smelled like anything you wanted, what fragrance would you want it to be?
    Growing up in Hong Kong and Florida, summer rain has always been a very pleasant and nostalgic smell.
  17. If you could pick any career other than the one you’ve chosen, what would it be?
    Something related to baseball analytics. I’d love to have an office inside a baseball park.
  18. What inconsequential super power would you like to have?
    I’d be able to find every available parking spot in downtown Boston. I’ve spent way too much time driving around looking for parking.
  19. What movie, picture, or video always makes you laugh no matter how often you watch it?
    The “Baked in a buttery flaky crust” YouTube video.
  20. What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
    Going to space would be incredible.

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