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Darcy Wanger’s Personal Story


“I thought science was done—past tense—by a bunch of old white guys. I was wrong.”


Darcy describes her realization that science is not something “done—in the past tense” by people long ago, but rather an exciting pursuit that requires social interactions to solve current real-world questions.

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  • MIT title

    Current MIT Graduate Student in Prof. Moungi Bawendi’s Lab

  • In your current work, where do you find inspiration/real-word application to your research? What about science continues to inspire you?

    Being able to connect my science with the “real world” is a pretty important factor that motivates me to get started on a project. That’s why I am studying what will make solar cells a more feasible energy source. So while it’s true that I test my solar cells in a windowless room with a calibrated fake sun, the things I learn can affect how solar cells are made and used in real sunlight.

    But I also get pumped about cool science that is not intrinsically tied to the “real world.” For me, the “puzzle” aspect is very fun because it’s so satisfying when you have a picture in your head about the different ways something might work, and then you can design an experiment to test which one of the ways it is. I thought it was pretty amusing for that reason to learn about the different stretching modes of molecules, and how the different energies of those modes can help you figure out which atoms are connected to each other without being able to actually physically look at them.

  • What is your favorite non-science book, blog, or magazine?

    There are so many books that I love! The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card, and I recently found The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

  • Growing up, did you know how to play a sport or musical instrument? Which one?

    I liked to play around with the piano we had in our house as a kid- I picked out tunes by ear for fun. I played clarinet starting in 7th grade and then in 8th grade switched over to playing the bassoon, which I’ve played regularly ever since!

    I didn’t really play sports as a kid, because they weren’t something that sounded fun to me, though I was on the volleyball team as a 7th and 8th grader. I’ve recently begun playing volleyball again, and I have been very pleasantly surprised to realize that it’s really fun! I like having an activity to do that requires all of my attention and in which I can very easily see myself improve. Mastering skills is very rewarding!

  • Do you have a favorite quotation about science?

    “If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday’s fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem…”~ R. Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth

    “We used to think that if we knew one, we knew two, because one and one are two. We are finding that we must learn a great deal more about ‘and’”. ~ Sir Arthur Eddington