Apr 22, 2015 | Atlanta, GA
M.G. Finn is a professor and chair of the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech. Recently, the Office of Faculty Affairs had the opportunity to learn more about Finn and his time at Tech. Here’s what he said.
Tell us a little about your research.
My lab makes useful tools and applies them to significant targets. The tools range from powerful ways to make chemical bonds — enabling us and others to make new molecules easily — to particles that we take from nature and adapt to new purposes. Our targets include vaccines for bacterial and parasitic diseases, and new ways to deliver drugs to cancer cells and other tissues. I also have a great interest in using the power of evolution to make new and useful things.
What made you decide to work at Georgia Tech?
Two years ago, I was recruited from The Scripps Research Institute to help Georgia Tech’s continuing development in the molecular biosciences. This followed initial contact some years before during a different search. At that time, I was not interested in moving, but got to know the institution and my department. Since I had been previously sensitized to the many possibilities at Tech, it wasn’t a difficult decision the second time around. As I always say, I love engineers — or, more generally, the engineering mindset, which I characterize as the drive to get useful things done. In my world, that means making useful molecules and molecular processes, but a commitment to the important and the practical underpins much activity here. I really like that. And since the best engineers appreciate and are nurtured by the best science, Georgia Tech also invests and has great strength in fundamental inquiry. It comes down to being a place in which I find many, many interesting and engaging colleagues doing fabulous work. Who wouldn’t want to be here? Also important is the Atlanta environment — the close proximity and complementary research power of several universities, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other area institutions makes this an extraordinarily exciting place to live and work. Plus, the barbecue is pretty good.
What are the top three reasons you’d recommend Georgia Tech to other faculty?
Tech offers a wonderfully stimulating environment. The constant interplay between scientists and engineers of different disciplines happens here at a level and intensity that is found at very few other places in the world. Also, the administration is very supportive. Their unique quality is how responsive they are to ideas and initiatives from the faculty and students. I have seen many examples that really show me that hard work and creativity are rewarded here. Lastly, our students are amazing. Because I’ve taken on some administrative responsibilities myself, I haven’t had the chance to interact with as many undergraduate and graduate students as I would like. But they’re almost always energizing — really wonderful young colleagues from many different backgrounds and places.
What are a few things every faculty member should do while at Georgia Tech?
Get out to see a basketball game (or your favorite spectator sport). Share coffee or a meal as often as possible with colleagues in other departments. And talk with students about things other than what you’re trying to get them to learn in class or the lab. That’s when the best teaching happens — in both directions.