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Author Profile

Barbara Imperiali
Class of 1922 Professor in Chemistry and Biology

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What brought you to MIT?

I first came to MIT from England many years ago to join the Chemistry graduate program. I wanted to come to the best place I possibly could so that I had a lot of options later on when I was looking for an academic job. In 1983 I received my Ph.D. and then after two postdoc appointments and a short stint on the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University I joined the faculty at Caltech. Then about 8 years ago I got the opportunity to come back to MIT - I came back because I saw great opportunities for interactions with a lot of colleagues at MIT (in many different departments) and I felt that it would stimulate me to take my science in a lot of new directions - it certainly has!

What are your primary research interests?

My main focus is on the application of chemical and physical approaches for the study of biological systems.

What was the toughest paper you ever had to write and why?

Well, all papers are tough when they are not quite ready to be written - for example, if there is some extra data needed or if part of the story is unfinished. But when they're ready I think they almost write themselves!

What is your favorite paper and why?

Hard to say - I like them all!!

How do you balance research and teaching?

When I am teaching (and basically I do two concentrated stints a year teaching both at the graduate and the undergraduate level), my time is all about teaching because I get really involved with it. At these times my group does a good job giving me a lot of space to focus on teaching. At the times of year when I am not teaching - my door is always open for my group and I also roam around the lab a lot because I really like seeing the experiments going on and plotting what we should try next.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to travel! I try to plan trips around treks. I just got back from Peru; I hiked the Inca trail up to Machu Picchu and the year before I did an awesome trek in the Chilean Patagonia. The next trip I want to plan is to Nepal. My other major diversion is SCUBA diving - I have done about 400 open-water dives is all parts of the world - most recently I have been diving in Indonesia and also off the Galapagos Islands - I would recommend both very enthusiastically!

What is/are your favorite movie(s)?

For movies, I try to see as many films in Italian, Spanish and French to listen to the languages as well as see the films.

What is/are your favorite book(s)?

A couple of my favorite authors are Paul Coelho (I just read The Zahir) and Ann Patchett (Bel Canto and Truth and Beauty)

What is/are your favorite food(s)?

I am basically a vegetarian, so for me there is nothing better than a huge plate of grilled vegetables or a really great salad - I expect you thought I'd say "chocolate" well I do like chocolate too, of course!

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