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ChE Doctoral Student Irene Kurtz Wins Scholarship for BASF International Summer Course in Germany

Irene Kurtz

Irene Kurtz

Chemical engineering (ChE) doctoral student Irene Kurtz, whose advisor is ChE Professor Jessica Schiffman, has been chosen to attend the highly competitive BASF Summer Course in Ludwigshafen, Germany, held from August 11 to 17. Young talented scientists from all over the world will meet in Germany to take part in the event. Kurtz is one of eight participants selected from North America.

As BASF says about this course, it “offers a unique opportunity for young scientists and engineers to gain insight into the chemical industry and learn about R&D, engineering, technology, marketing, or production.”

As representatives of their universities, the participants will exchange experiences and ideas with BASF colleagues through presentations, discussions, plant visits, and numerous informal meetings and cultural events. The participants will be guests of BASF during the forum, and BASF will cover the expenses incurred for travel, board, and lodging.

Kurtz studies in Schiffman’s lab, which focuses on the microbiology and materials science interface. Kurtz is working on a thesis to determine the structure-property relationships between bacteria and their attachment to soft materials, such as hydrogels and elastomeric films. Kurtz has also been involved with a NORA BASF collaboration for over two years, interacting with BASF scientists, visiting BASF sites, and presenting at BASF events.

In addition, having presented posters and oral presentations at local and national conferences, Kurtz has gained a lot of experience communicating to fellow scientists from a wide variety of backgrounds. She has also won awards for presenting, which have helped her attend additional conferences. She has more than 12 conference presentations and publications in scientific journals.

Leadership experience exhibited by Kurtz over her academic career was also integral to the application for the BASF course. Among other leadership positions, Kurtz, who earned her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame, has served as president of the student leadership council for the Soft Materials for Life Sciences National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Traineeship and the social chair for the Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Society, both positions at UMass Amherst.

Kurtz explained in her application material that the NSF Research Traineeship and associated fellowship educate students to be effective members of interdisciplinary teams with a focus on preparing students for industrial careers.

“I led monthly student meetings for practice conference talks and professional development events,” wrote Kurtz. “I also communicated improvements for the traineeship between the student group and faculty mentors. In part because of my role as president, I was selected by the directors to be the student representative for the 2018 NSF Research Traineeship Annual Meeting, presenting on my research and the traineeship at UMass Amherst.”

Her leadership position with the Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Society involved planning and organizing professional development and social events for graduate students in the Chemical Engineering Department.

“Since the department encompasses diverse research areas from catalysis to cancer research,” wrote Kurtz, “events were focused on bringing students together to increase retention through a support system and unified department.” 

The BASF Corporation is the largest affiliate of BASF SE and the second largest producer and marketer of chemicals and related products in North America. (July 2019)