Benjamin McDonald uses synthetic organic chemistry to answer questions with more questions
March 2, 2020 | MIT News | Fernanda Ferreira | School of Science
MLK Visiting Scholar Benjamin McDonald uses synthetic organic chemistry in the Swager lab to answer questions with more questions.
Everyone knows a kid who constantly asks, “Why?” “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do people have teeth?” “Why are hurricanes given names?” According to Benjamin McDonald, he was that kid. “I kept asking ‘Why?’ to the point of exasperation on the part of my parents,” he says. Because McDonald always wanted to get to the root of things, each answer was met with another “why” question. “I saw science as a clear mechanism for trying to answer some of those questions,” he explains.
Currently, McDonald is a postdoc and the self-described “regular old organic chemist learning new tricks and new questions” in Professor Tim Swager’s lab. The Swager lab uses concepts from basic chemistry to create new applications such as materials that react to different chemicals. This has led McDonald to flip the question from “Why?” to “Why not?” He’s still interested in why substances behave as they do, but he has also begun tinkering with these substances. Specifically, he’s modifying polymers to give them new applications.