M.he chemistry is fun. Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim, who holds a PhD in chemistry, was born in Heppenheim an der Bergstrasse in 1987, and became known through her YouTube channel “maiLab” (1.36 million subscribers). Your video “Corona is far from over” in April 2020 was the most frequently clicked German YouTube video of the year. In October, the science journalist was featured in the “Terra X” three-part series “Wunderwelt Chemie” on ZDF, which can also be found in the media library. Her own science program “MAITHINK X – The Show” is running on ZDFneo. Her current book “Die kleinste Gemeinschaft Reality” (Droemer Knaur) has been nominated for the German Non-Fiction Prize.
What do you eat for breakfast?
Most of the time I just have a coffee. I usually go to bed late and get up late, which also affects my hunger.
Where do you buy your clothes?
Too many places. But preferably in smaller boutiques that sell more unusual pieces. If I need something special, like a sweater with a skeleton on it because I’m doing a show about Marie Curie, I already order it online.
What’s the oldest item of clothing in your closet?
My Abitur sweater. It says “BIZness-Class 2006”, our Abitur motto. My school, the Bergstraßen Gymnasium in Hemsbach, was still called the Education Center, or BIZ for short.
When was the last time you wrote a handwritten letter?
That was long ago. That was probably some kind of love letter to my husband, who was still my boyfriend at the time. So it was probably twelve years ago.
Which book has impressed you the most in your life?
The textbooks on quantum mechanics in my studies. They made my brain explode. For me, chemistry is a key to an invisible world, the world of molecules that we cannot see and in which many wondrous things happen. Quantum mechanics, a branch of chemistry, goes even deeper. She does not look at atoms, but at elementary particles that are so small that the laws of classical physics do not apply. For example, an electron is in several places at the same time. You have to accept that and learn things that you cannot imagine.
How do you find out about world events?
Via many channels: I have subscribed to paper and digital newspapers, via Twitter and Youtube, in media libraries. The problem is that anyone today can blow information into the world. This makes editorial work all the more important. And competence has its price.
What’s your favorite small talk topic?
People who don’t know me well are interested in my job today. Funnily enough, it used to be a total conversation killer: When I said I’m a chemist, I saw panic in my eyes. People feared I would explain quantum mechanics to them.
What was the last movie you cried at?
I haven’t had the time to watch films since I was a mother. The last one I cried at was the animated film “Coco – More Alive Than Life!” I was lying in bed.
Are You Superstitious?
I am as little superstitious as anyone can be. And for me, playing the lottery borders on superstition.
What can you laugh about?
I would like to say: about everything. For me, humor is also a way of dealing with blows of fate, making them more bearable.
Your favorite first names?
My daughter’s name, which I won’t reveal here. But now I also like my first names, Mai and Thi. When I was seven, I was still sad that I didn’t have a German name, I’d rather be called Chantal.
Are you taking a lunch break?
Not necessarily. I am very persistent and prefer to have more time for myself and my family in the evenings.
In which country would you most like to live?
What is never missing in your fridge?
Garlic, though not necessarily in the refrigerator. Life without garlic is possible, but pointless.
Do you feel freer with or without a car?
It depends where I am. In Frankfurt without, in the country rather with.
What is your greatest talent?
I am very stoic. And very solution-oriented. If something goes wrong that I can’t change, I immediately focus on plan B or C.
What do you do when it is unreasonable?
Buying too many clothes and going to bed late.
Which historical person would you like to meet?
The chemist Justus von Liebig, because he was so versatile. He invented everything from fertilizer to color pigments to baby food. And he gave lectures for laypeople. Science communication is a big topic today, it was something new back then.
Do you wear jewelry? And a watch?
My wedding ring. And my gold Casio watch.
Do you have a favorite fragrance?
Fresh basil. And onions and garlic, freshly fried.
What was your best holiday experience?
We traveled to the United States again when I was pregnant. It becomes more difficult with a child, we thought. We were still missing one spot: from the Rocky Mountains through the deserts to California.
What was the last concert you were at?
When I received the Leibniz Medal in June, a fantastic duo was playing: Eckart Runge on cello and Jacques Ammon on piano.
Fortunately, what are you missing?
The time for social media.
What do you have for dinner
Always just water. And I’ll say right away so that I don’t sound too boring: I can’t drink alcohol because I lack the enzyme with which the toxic intermediate product acetaldehyde is broken down. This is called Asian Flush Syndrome. I think it’s great and secretly hope that I passed it on to my daughter too.
#NguyenKim #questionnaire #playing #lottery #borders #superstition