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A Day in the Lab with Professor Nozomi Ando

Profiles- - By Tien Nguyen, Department of Chemistry

A Day in the Lab is a Q&A series that gives readers a glimpse into the lives of Princeton researchers across the chemistry department. This installment features Nozomi Ando, an assistant professor of chemistry who joined the chemistry department in the summer of 2014. She received her PhD from Cornell University under the direction of Sol Gruner and completed postdoctoral studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the laboratory of Catherine Drennan. Ando’s group aims to tackle challenging problems in structural biology using tools from physical and biological chemistry. 

Nozomi Ando in group meeting with her students

1) What she’s working on: My lab studies enzymes using non-conventional X-ray techniques. I am involved in every project in my lab, but at the moment, my biggest time commitments are writing, giving talks, and teaching. Pretty soon, my group and I will be busy with the fall cycle of synchrotron experiments.

2) Typical daily routine: I usually start work at home with breakfast. Once at Frick, I am usually in my office working on my computer. I often leave my door open because I can’t hear knocking when I’m listening to music. I generally eat lunch with my group, and sometimes, we get coffee and snacks in the afternoon. When my group is at a synchrotron, a typical day can involve getting up at odd hours, making samples and collecting data all night, eating out, and driving long distances to pick up more samples. “No photons wasted,” is our motto.

3) Most effective organizational tool: I rely heavily on a system of piles of paper, post-it notes, multiple to-do lists, students sending me reminders, shared calendars, and short-term memory. The most effective organizational tool in lab, however, is a well-maintained lab book.

4) Most productive time of the day: I am most optimistic about having a productive day in the morning. I’m least productive when hungry. I’m generally a night person and most creative at night.

5) Strategy for keeping up with the literature: Currently, writing review articles or covering certain topics in my class motivates me to read papers. My group also discusses papers of interest in journal club meetings.

6) Most essential scientific instrument: Synchrotron light sources.

The Ando lab having lunch in the chemistry atrium

7) Favorite way to spend a break: As I’m sure is evident, I enjoy spending time with my lab. My group keeps me constantly entertained with their encyclopedic knowledge of random facts and amusing drawings on my whiteboard. We have thus far been unsuccessful at organizing “labminton”. However, my group is quite musical, so occasionally, our neighbors are forced to listen to our cello, guitar, and otamatone playing.

8) Most interesting research right now (outside of your lab): I just came back from a meeting at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory where I visited the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). It was very interesting to see various experiments being prepared for the X-ray free electron laser.

9) Favorite element/compound: Carbon in the form of diamond — mainly because it is a good material for X-ray windows.