13 Questions – Eli Fastow
Eli Fastow grew up in Pikesville, a suburb just 10 minutes north of Baltimore, where he attended Pikesville High School (go panthers!). He attended the University of Maryland, College Park, where he majored in Materials Science and Engineering with a minor in Nano-Science and Technology. During his time as an undergraduate, he spent two summers as a research fellow at NIST. He began his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania as a member of the Winey Group right after graduation. He researches the structure-property relationships that govern the behavior of polymers made by upcycling analogs to waste polyolefins.
1. Your name?
My name is Eli Jared Fastow, but I go by Eli. I don’t really have any nicknames.
2. What is your favorite color?
Though I wear a lot of blue, I think my favorite color is green.
3. What was the last book that you read, or movie that you saw?
The last book I read was The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin, an electric fantasy book. I have a real soft spot for science fiction and fantasy, and that book really grabbed me. The last movie I watched was Chinatown (1974).
4. What did the fourth grader Eli Fastow want to be growing up?
Fourth grade Eli wanted to be a scientist! I am proud that I am not only living out that dream, but the science I do looks very similar to what I pictured as a child; my work often features X-ray scattering, wet lab work, and mechanical testing (among other experimental work), all tasks that look very science-y.
5. What animal do you most identify with?
I most identify with corvids. I always loved all of the little quirks of birds, and I think corvids really up that strangeness to the n-th degree. Crows are remarkably successful at securing the basics of life—food, water, shelter—so have more time than most animals to develop really unique behaviors, like tool use. I would love one day to feel comfortable enough in my career to focus more on the strange little pursuits of life that make being a human interesting.
6. What individual or moment has had the greatest impact on your life? How or why?
My fiancée, Jillian, has had the most impact on my life over the past half-decade and change. I couldn’t ask for a better partner for this long strange trip.
7. Your craft crashes/capsizes and you’re stuck on an island with five personal items of your choice. What are they and why?
If I crash on an island, I’m really hoping there’s a resort within walking distance. If that’s the case, I’m going with swimming trunks, sunscreen, a good book, sunglasses, and a beach towel.
8. We hear that you’re tying the nuptials. What are your top three wedding song choices?
We have the big-picture stuff (venue, caterer, etc.) figured out, but we’re still working out the particulars like the wedding song. I know that’s not a very satisfying answer, but it’s the best I can do for now.
9. What’s the go-to meal that you cook that always makes your fiancée happy?
We’re both fans of a cozy hearty meal on a cold day, so I might make a goulash or chicken paprikash if I have the time. If I don’t feel like doing anything fancy then I’ll throw together a tofu stir-fry.
10. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I don’t know if I can really point to one singular triumph, one shining moment that defines me. I am tremendously proud of the science my collaborators, advisor, and I conduct, but that’s not one achievement as much as a winding journey.
11. If you were given two options: The gift of $1,000,000, or the opportunity to go back in time to relive your life, knowing what you know now, which option would you take?
One million dollars, no doubt in my mind! Overall I’m pretty happy with the way my life turned out. It would take a lot more than a million to get me to roll the dice on something going wrong in my past.
12. If you were able to have lunch with three people living or dead? Any reason why?
I would have lunch with Terry Pratchett for his wit, Ursula K. Le Guin for her insight, and Jonas Salk for his generosity of spirit.
13. Who are the top five songs on your mix tape?
I’d pick the following songs in no particular order: Good Life (Sammy Rae & The Friends), Big Sam Thompson (Chris Thile), St. James Infirmary (Allen Toussaint), and perhaps Mine Forever (Lord Huron). As a note, that list would change day to day!
We’ll add one more….
14. Penn Engineering is…
…phenomenal at building and leveraging collaborations.