Katherine Mirica is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Dartmouth College. The Mirica group works on the design and synthesis of stimuli-responsive materials for portable chemical sensing and microelectronics.
1. What made you want to be a chemist?
While I grew up among chemists (my mother is a chemist) in a small industrial town of Ukraine, and enjoyed chemistry in high school, it was not until my involvement in research during my sophomore year at Boston College that I had solidified my decision to study chemistry. I became fascinated with organic and materials chemistry and the potential of these fields in solving global challenges in healthcare.
2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be — and why?
An architect — I’ve always loved designing and making things.
3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?
My group focuses on the design of conductive multifunctional nanomaterials for gas-phase sensing to enable portable and personalized diagnosis and monitoring of diseases. We are particularly interested in designing sensors for a class of molecules known as gasotransmitters (e.g., nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfide), to attain fundamental understanding of the role of these physiological modulators in human disease. Materials and methods developed in the group may also be applicable to information storage, and energy storage, conversion, and catalysis.
4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with — and why?
Richard Feynman. His vision for nanotechnology at the time was extraordinary, and his ability to communicate complex concepts with such clarity was truly remarkable. I regularly watch videos of him on YouTube, and greatly admire both his work and ability to question and explain things.
5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab — and what was it?
I did a sensing experiment for my first paper as an independent investigator, which was recently published in Chemistry of Materials.
6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?
The book would have to be War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (in original Russian), and the music would be Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi. One is bound to discover new meaning in these classics every time they are revisited.
7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions — and why?
My PhD advisor, George Whitesides. I bet he would have very interesting answers.