Posted by: Matthew | April 25, 2007

My Interview with Josh Gallaway, the Electrochemist

This is my interview with Josh Gallaway. I like his job. He gets to work with elements and weird machines. Thanks for letting me interview you, Josh.

1. Where do you live?

I live in Queens, which is part of New York City. Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx are New York’s five “boroughs,” and each one is a separate county, which is different than in most cities.

2. What is it like where you live?

My neighborhood has a lot of Greek people in it, so at lots of stores the workers speak both English and Greek. And you hear people speaking Greek on the street. I like living in New York because there are lots of people around all the time, but you don’t always have to talk to them. If I’m by myself, I get lonely, but I don’t always like talking to people, either.

3. You go to Columbia University. What are you studying there?

I’m studying electrochemistry, which is “the study of electron-transfer.” Electrochemistry has to do with several things. Batteries is probably the easiest to explain to people. An electron-transfer reaction happens inside a AA battery, and it gives you electricity. Electrochemists are always trying to figure out better things to put inside batteries. But the outside of the battery you buy always looks the same, so you don’t even know when they’ve changed it.

4. What is it like at Columbia?

It’s nice. The buildings are big and pretty. There are people of all ages here, but there are lots of people who are about 18-22 years old. That seems young to me (I’m 33), but it’s nice to be around younger people because it makes me feel younger.

5. What is your favorite type of element?

Osmium! If you look on the periodic table, osmium is #76, right in the middle. I study osmium for my job, and so I like it. I named my website osmium for that reason.

6. What is the heaviest element?

The heaviest element that occurs in nature is uranium, #92. It is radioactive. Scientists can make even heavier elements using a very fancy machine called a “cyclotron.” They have made element #118, which doesn’t have a name yet, because people like to fight about what to name new elements. But when they make new elements this way, they only make a few atoms, and it only lasts a fraction of a second before it goes bad. So you can’t ever see it or hold it.

By heaviest, you could also mean the “densest” element. “Density” means something’s mass compared to its size, so dense things are heavy even though they are small. And osmium is the densest element! (I had to bring up osmium again.)

7. Do you have a t-shirt with the periodic table on it?

I used to, when I was in high school. It was white, with a blue periodic table. But I don’t have it anymore.

8. What is your favorite color? Why?

My favorite color changes sometimes. Usually it is blue or green or black. Right now it is green, because I just bought some cool green shoes, and I like them.

9. What is your favorite word in Spanish?

I don’t know how to speak Spanish, but my favorite word in Spanish is probably muertos.

10. What is your favorite type of animal? Why?

Right now my favorite animal is a giraffe. I heard a song called “Joshua Giraffe” and it made me like giraffes. My favorite animal changes sometimes, too, though. If I get to play with a dog, my favorite animal will be dogs for a while, if I liked the dog. If I play with a cat, the same thing happens.

11. What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?

This was a hard question to answer. When I was 13, I made a movie using a camera I rented and a VCR (this was in 1987). My movie won a couple of contests, and eventually I got to go to a big contest that involved people from everywhere in Tennessee. My movie won. (That part was nice.) The embarrassing part was that the next year I made another movie for the contest, and since I had won the whole state the year before, I didn’t work as hard on the new movie. (I figured whatever I made would be good.) Well, my second movie was bad, and at the contest I could hear people trying not to laugh. That was probably the most upset I have ever been, and I was embarrassed.

12. What do you feel like when you get embarrassed?

It feels really terrible. I think I take being embarrassed worse than most people do. For the movie thing, I seemed ok to my friends and my mom and dad, but I would think about it constantly, and think about how much I hated myself and how stupid I was. Eventually I had to learn to stop thinking about it. It is 20 years later, and I still think about it sometimes, and when I thought of it while reading your question, I started to get upset with myself and my heart started pounding. I pretty much do everything I can to keep from being embarrassed.

13. I asked Sarah, so I’ll ask you too. What happens to you when you eat sugar? A lot of sugar?

A little sugar tastes good, like eating M&M’s. If I eat a lot of it, though, it feels bad. Too much will make me feel tired and depressed. So I’m careful to stop, because I know that.

14. What does cataclysmic mean? My mom said to look it up on the internet, but the internet is wrong sometimes.

Something is cataclysmic if it is bad in such a big way that it changes things forever and can’t ever be undone.

15. What is your favorite type of writing? What do you read?

I like books that have long paragraphs. Sometimes that makes things harder to read, but once I get into it I enjoy it more. My favorite writer is James Joyce, and his books have very big paragraphs. He has short books and long books, though, and I like both kinds.

16. What do you think about when you’re trying to go to sleep?

I think it’s hard to go to sleep, so I want to think about anything except how hard it is to go to sleep. Because that will keep me up. So since I try not to think of that, that’s usually what I end up thinking about. If I’m really tired, though, I don’t remember thinking about anything, and I like that.

17. What is your favorite number in Roman Numerals?

I think my favorite is C, because it seems weird to write it, since I never see it. One hundred is a big number, so Shakespeare never wrote a play called Henry C. (Because there’s no Henry the Hundredth!) But C means hundred. There are 100 Cents in a dollar, and 100 years in a Century. So in a secret way, it makes total sense.



  1. I think this was your best interview yet, Matthew! I’ve been friends with Josh for a few years now, and I learned things about him and his work that I never knew before.

  2. thanks, matthew. i really enjoyed talking to you. good luck with the rest of your interviews. i’d like to give your cat a scratch behind the ears, but since i’m so far away you’ll have to do that for me.

  3. Good interview Matthew! I like how you asked him what his favorite Roman Numeral was. It’s nice to read original questions asked to interesting people.

  4. Wow, his favorite Spanish word is MUERTOS, huh? Like “Dia de los muertos?” 😉 I like the song Joshua Giraffe too. It is sort of sad though because his mama doesn’t lick him, not even when he’s sticky!

    – Angel

  5. Hey…. I would love to be interviewed! Email me and let me know how it all works!

  6. I’d like to be interviewed but don’t have a job

  7. Cool. I’ve never met anybody who was an electrochemist. I feel so smart for knowing what that is now!

  8. Matthew, I truly enjoyed reading your interview with Josh. I got to know Josh through his flickr photostream and his blog. By the way, the “sugar question” is very creative. A lot of us never realize that sugar, just like water, is actually a chemical (compound) 🙂

  9. awesome interview, Matt. And I loved the pictures and the post about Keith. There were some great facts about cats in that post.

    Keep up the good work, you.

  10. Matt, this interview rocks! You are really good at this! Now, I can’t wait to read the next interview. (I have some catching up to do because my computer was out for repairs last week.)

    Your cat Keith is just as fat as my roommate’s cat Super. (Super is short for Superfat.) Super has an automatic food dispenser that pours food into her bowl every morning. This morning, when it filled, she ran right over my feet to get to it.

  11. […] are hard to handle. I have had a lot of people volunteer to be interviewed all at once. I learned what osmium is. I learned about special effects. I had Matthew from send me a video of a cat […]

  12. haha I like the explanation of the Roman numeral “C”. That was great! Good interview Matt.

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