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Deep Conversations

Dr. Sadoway -- Every Girl’s Crazy ‘bout a Sharp Dressed Man

By Zachary A. Ozer

This week, The Tech tracked down Professor Donald R. Sadoway in his office and asked him all sorts of deeply personal questions about incredibly fascinating topics. Then we got around to it and did an interview.

The Tech: What would be a better title for 3.091 than 3.09 fun?

Professor Donald R. Sadoway: You want a running title or like a course number?

TT: Your choice.

Sadoway: Materials, the stuff of technology and the substance of civilization.

TT: That ought to work. Speaking of 3.091, honestly, if you were a student at MIT, how well would you do on your exams?

Sadoway: I’d ace them. Totally stuff ’em.

TT: I like the absoluteness.

Sadoway: I have my moments of vacillation, but not on this.

TT: Professor, we all know how you feel about cellular telephones going off in class, but tell me, if you were a cell phone, how often would you be turned on?

Sadoway: Depends on the cell phone owner. I’d be on whenever I was forced to do so.

TT: What about in class?

Sadoway: NEVER IN CLASS. But for Sadoway as a cell phone it’s involuntary. If I’m in the hands of someone so uncivilized that I might be on in class, it would be embarrassing, but involuntary for me to go off.

TT: Now, we know that students at MIT don’t drink if they’re underage and that members of the faculty and staff practice moderation in their consumption, but from a material scientist’s point of view, what is the best cure for a hangover?

Sadoway: Try to avoid it. Practice moderation. However, in the unlikely even that consumption exceeds capacity, drink lots of water before you retire. Continue to hydrate. Eat something first thing in the morning -- something fatty and with protein. Obviously, I have no experience with this, but that’s what I’ve read in medical journals, heard from colleagues, people in airports and on elevators.

TT: Is there a reason that faculty members, such as yourself with a Fresca, seem to drink Coke products? Is there some sort of subsidy they provide?

Sadoway: There is no Coke conspiracy. At least not that I know about. I like the taste and I try not to have caffeine all day long. I have a couple of cups of coffee first thing. But Fresca, it’s just right there. But to answer your question, I’m not on the board of Coke, I don’t own stock in Coke, and I’m not with the grapefruit owners. Trust me, I’m not profiting from drinking Fresca. It certainly doesn’t enlarge my wealth.

TT: Now I realize that this sounds a bit strange, but which member of the rat pack do you consider yourself to resemble most closely?

Sadoway: Well, uh, that’s a tough question. It’s a cross between Dean Martin and Joey Bishop. Dean Martin for the way he carries himself and Joey Bishop because he was the best educated.

TT: Could he have been a material scientist?

Sadoway: He could have been a metallurgist, but not a ceramist.

TT: A ceramist?

Sadoway: Someone who works with ceramics.

TT: Oh. Alright. Another similarity that’s been pointed out between you and the Rat Pack is your spiffy dress wear. I mean, I’m so impressed that I came in a Brooks Brothers suit today.

Sadoway: Oh, the Brooks Brothers, Brooks and Brooks. You know, there’s a third one.

TT: Really?

Sadoway: Yes. He’s colorblind. Also, never confuse the Brooks Brothers for the Smith Brothers.

TT: Alright. I’ll keep that in mind. What I really want to know, though, is how often can you wear clothes again without washing them?

Sadoway: Well, what do you mean? Because a top coat and hat, for example, you can wear many times.

TT: What about just a normal, everyday outfit?

Sadoway: A suit for example? If your personal hygiene is first rate [chuckles] and you’re not a slob at the table, [continues laughing] many times. If you have bad hygiene and play dropsy, you’re going to be good friends with your dry cleaner.

TT: So how often do you do laundry?

Sadoway: As soon as the stock is depleted.

TT: The stock of what?

Sadoway: Well, to keep it clean... usually when I’m out of socks.

TT: What is the worst experience you’ve ever had at a restaurant?

Sadoway: Let’s see. When I was first hired onto the faculty, I went to a rather upscale restaurant in Boston. I was in my late twenties. We went out for dinner for a birthday or wedding anniversary and were seated at a table for two. The wait staff was buzzing around us, but we were ignored for a long time. Eventually the food came and there was a bug in my salad. Ugh. I discreetly told one of the wait staff that I didn’t want to mix meat and salad. After another long while they re-emerged with a salad. They may have just taken the bug out. I brought it to the attention of the maitre d’, but there was no compensation, nothing. To this day I shy away from the restaurant when people suggest it. The dining experience is important. There is a need for attention to detail.

TT: Do you eat out often?

Sadoway: I tend not to eat out here. New York is better for eating out. Some places in Boston charge the same amount, but the level of service is much higher in New York.

TT: Do you go to New York often?

Sadoway: Sometimes. I go to see the opera and I do some shopping.

TT: Do you take the Chinatown bus?

Sadoway: No, I hop in my car and drive down.

TT: The Studebaker?

Sadoway: An Avanti. I recently traded in my old one.

TT: Is it electrified?

Sadoway: No, but if I win the lottery or a patent goes through, I’ll electrify the car. Did you ever see Gattica?

TT: A while a go.

Sadoway: You remember the car of the future? It was a ’63 Avanti. On the soundtrack they overlaid the engine with the sound of an electric motor.

TT: What about hybrids?

Sadoway: They’re boring. The layout of all new cars is very poor. There’s a poor interface and layout to the controls. The experience of driving them is empty. Also, I like refueling because I get hungry and I enjoy dining. You know why taste is important? It helps to recognize toxins. To go back to a previous point, taste is important, but it’s the dining experience which is critical. In cars however, the driving experience has gone downhill.

TT: What about trucks? Have you driven a pickup?

Sadoway: Freshman year in college, I worked for a company that installed swimming pools in Toronto. We were all 18, 19, and 20. We piled all of the equipment up in the back. The clutch was very unforgiving. We would get stuck in rush hour traffic in that truck and you could very easily pop the clutch and stall. You had to be really good because it was so unforgiving. Also, it didn’t have air-conditioning and Toronto, in the summer, it gets pretty warm.

TT: Finally, what’s your favorite piece of lab equipment and why?

Sadoway: Obviously, it’s electrochemical. I like the frequency spectroanalyzer.

TT: Frequency spectro...

Sadoway: Frequency Spectroanalyzer. It allows you to measure AC and the complex impedance of an electrochemical system, such as a battery. It’s important because one can use it to understand the limitations of the system and understand what needs to be optimized. Also, it’s a powerful diagnostic tool.

TT: I think that about wraps up the interview. Thank you so much professor.

Sadoway: I was happy to oblige.