What advice would you give to young persons from under-represented backgrounds who want to pursue a career in science similar to yours?
That is a hard question. We each have our own starting point that differs from everyone else. One thing I have to say is to be very picky and smart with whom you choose as mentors. Make sure that science is a passion for you. Doing science is really hard and sometimes a very lonesome endeavor. Don’t let what others say or do get to you. And when it does, get over it. Fast. Find out what works for you and make sure you stay the course.
What are your hobbies?
I love all things about food. Making pasta, cheese or bread. Doing things with my wife in the kitchen is fun and rewarding. The best is that you get to eat the results, most of the time. I also like building things. I like miniature models of any sort. There is a challenge when you build something at that scale to make it look realistic. This means that you have to think about translating textures and visual cues to work at a different scale.
What was the last book you read?
I usually am reading between five and seven books at a time. You can blame that on a short attention span. Some of last books I read were (1) "Holding the Center" by Howard Wesley Johnson, (2) "Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain and (3) "The City in Mind" by James Howard Kunsler.
Do you have any heroes, heroines or role models? If so, describe how they have influenced you?
I have several individuals that I have looked up to over the years. The microbiologist Luis Pasteur and the chemist Friedrich August Kekule von Stradonitz were early inspirations to me. The way they looked at life and at science resonated with my personality.