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Spotlight on Students: Kenneth Lyons Jr.

  • Affiliation: MSE
  • Hometown: Oakland, Calif.

As a rising second-year student in the Material Science and Engineering (MSE) Ph. D. program at Cornell, Kenneth Lyons Jr. is researching the self-assembly of photonic structures from colloidal, polymer particles. A chemist by training, he works in the lab of Dr. Chekesha Liddell-Watson and enjoys, among the program’s other perks, unlimited access to a scanning electron microscope.

Though unsure of his specific plans after the five-year program, Lyons does plan to embark on a career in science with the ultimate goal of becoming a NASA astronaut.

As an undergraduate, Lyons studied chemistry at Morehouse College in Atlanta. Lyons chose Cornell for his graduate studies, in part, for the amicable and friendly atmosphere in the MSE department, the breadth of activities and events, resources, and funding.

At Cornell, he often recalls the words of the sixth president of Morehouse College, Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays: “Whatever you do, strive to do  it so well that no man living, and no man dead, and no man yet to be born could do it better.”

Although Lyons notes an improvement in the diversity of the student body, Cornell’s Office of Diversity Programs in Engineering has done a great job of helping him to adapt and establish a sense of community, he says.

His advice to future Ph. D. students? Have patience. “You can’t figure out what you want to do on Day Two and graduate on Day Seven; it will take time.”

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