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Doctoral student wins D.C. fellowship


Published January 16, 2014

Kenneth Kort is going to Washington.

Through the 2014 Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship, Kort, a chemistry doctoral student, will spend 12 weeks in Washington, D.C., learning the ins and outs of science and technology policy.

The program provides 30 fellows a glimpse of the role scientists and engineers play in advising, with the goal that they leave the fellowship with an appreciation for careers outside academia.

“The fellowship is a unique opportunity for early career scientists,” says Kort. “We will get the chance to explore a crucial part of scientific development and be a part of the political process that can determine the direction for the future of science and technology in the U.S.”

Now in its 16th year, the fellowship — which runs from Jan. 21 through April 11 — operates through the Policy and Global Affairs Division of the National Academies, an adviser of the federal government on scientific and technological matters. Kort will work with the National Materials and Manufacturing Board, one of 70 possible committees that fellows are assigned to for research on policy topics.

Each fellow works with a mentor and presents his or her findings to the fellowship class at the end of the term. Several program alumni now hold positions in congressional committees, federal agencies, foreign governments and more.

Kort hopes the fellowship will act as a stepping stone toward a career in public policy focused on supporting science and technology development. A Poughkeepsie native, he is driven to help rejuvenate the “rust belt” through advanced manufacturing of innovative technology.

“Kenny is the rare student who combines creativity in the laboratory with a boundless curiosity about the intersection of science and society,” says Sarbajit Banerjee, associate professor of chemistry. “He is a passionate and tireless advocate for reviving advanced materials manufacturing in the ‘rust belt.’ Washington desperately needs more creative and scientifically accomplished problem solvers like Kenny.”

Kort completed most of his research within UB's Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics under Banerjee. One of his projects involved creating two-dimensional nano-crystals to improve the energy-efficiency in cell phone and television displays. He also has worked with SEMATECH, a company that researches advanced chip manufacturing, on developing a technique that uses lasers to measure charge-carrier density in III-V semiconductors.