Mas Subramanian is a solid state materials scientist at Oregon State University. He has 56 patents and is best known for his accidental discovery of a new shade of blue, “YInMn blue,” during work to create compounds that might improve the memory of computers. Before joining the panel at a Zócalo/Getty “Open Art” event titled, “What Does Blue Mean?” he talked in the green room about plants, food, and the biography of Linus Pauling.
What’s the best place to eat in Corvallis, Oregon?
There’s a place called Nearly Normal. It’s a very Oregon place, with a lot of vegetarian food. I’m a vegetarian.
When was the first moment you knew you were going to be a chemist?
I was interested in colors growing up in India. We are very colorful. I was always fascinated by discovery, and then I read the biographies of chemists like Linus Pauling.
What keeps you up at night?
Why we are not able to predict the materials that we want to discover. For example, I want to discover a room temperature superconductor. But most superconductors conduct at super low temperatures now, and they aren’t very useful. The problem is we are still discovering things unexpectedly. When we are looking for something that we want to discover, we can’t find it.
When are you at your most creative?
Early morning. My thinking process starts very early morning.
What salad dressing best describes you?
What kind of car do you drive?
What profession would you like to practice in your next life?
I don’t mind coming back as a chemist, because I had so much fun this life.
When you turn on the television at your house, what channel is more likely to be on?
What’s your favorite plant?
Wisteria. They are beautiful plants. And the more you trim them, the more flowers you get.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
Don’t give up.