Behind the Test Tube: Q&A

Agnes Thorarinsdottir—Assistant Professor of Chemistry

A poster featuring the person's image and the answer to two profile questions.

Where is home/where did you grow up?

I am born and raised in Akureyri, a town with a population of ~20,000 in North Iceland, right south of the Artic Circle. It is a beautiful town, surrounded by Nature (ski resort, forest, mountains, ocean) and I highly recommend visiting!

Why did you choose chemistry as a career?

Growing up I liked all physical sciences as the problem-solving aspect and hypothesis-driven research was fascinating to me. What ultimately made me choose higher education and a career in chemistry was a combination of my positive experiences at the Chemistry Olympiad and in a chemistry demonstration team in high school.

Proudest accomplishment while at the University of Rochester?

One of the proudest moments of my ~9 months journey at the UofR was the first group meeting I held after three graduate students joined my group in December. Realizing that this team would form the foundations of my group’s research was a very exciting moment.

What do you like to do when not in the department?

I am an outdoorsy person that likes being surrounded by Nature. I enjoy biking, hiking, and travelling to new places. I am also a sports enthusiast and especially follow European soccer and track and field. 

A Rochester must?

Seeing fireflies on a nice evening in the summer/fall is quite an experience!

Feast/meal of the times? Details, please!

My favorite dish is risotto that my dad makes. While he frequently changes the ingredients (chicken vs shrimp vs lobster vs vegetables), it is the texture of the rice and a lot of cheese and pesto that make the dish so delicious. This meal is always a must when I visit my family in Iceland.

A holiday that rocks? Care to tell us why?

Nothing can beat New Year’s Eve in Iceland! Whether you are up for a crazy fireworks experience, party all night with friends, or have a quality game night with your family, I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed with celebrating the New Year in Iceland! (This is one of the things that you don’t fully understand until you try it!)     

Care to share about a special tradition in your family/town/country?

My country has an interesting annual three-day celebration in the seventh week before Easter. On Monday, which is called “Bun Day”, kids use their pre-made wands to tap their parents on the butt and earn the same number of buns as successful attempts. On Tuesday, which is called “Blast Day”, a soup made from lentils and vegetables accompanied with salted meat is eaten. As this soup is only served once a year and falls on the day before Lent starts, many eat too much of it, hence the name! Wednesday is called “Ash Wednesday” and on this day, kids will group together and visit local businesses in their costumes and sing songs in change of candy or other sweets.

Fun Fact or Quote

One fun fact:
My last name is actually not written “Thorarinsdottir” in Icelandic, rather “Þórarinsdóttir” and it means “the daughter of Thorarinn/Þórarinn, which is my father’s first name.”
One quote:
“Optimism is a happiness magnet. If you stay positive, good things and good people will be drawn to you”-Mary Lou Retton.

Ask me about…

Water or Iceland (I will surely have opinions and recommendations for both!).

The goal of this initiative is to highlight the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives in the Department of Chemistry and help our community develop stronger connections and synergies. You can think of these spotlights as the beginning of a conversation that we very much hope you will continue in the corridors of Hutch and beyond.

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