Stony Brook University PhD chemistry student Deborah Barkley has added to an already distinguished academic career by winning the 2016 Kodak Intern Innovation Award.
The award came as the result of an internship Deborah served at Eastman Kodak Research Labs, within the Intellectual Property Solutions Division. There she studied nanoparticle polymer surface interactions.
Deborah’s award-winning project was based on an idea she submitted in response to a request for suggestions to improve the company.
“I spoke with many people performing different functions at Kodak and asked questions regarding current strategies. My proposal addressed ways to more efficiently commercialize the technologies developed within the research labs,” she said. “It was both exciting and nerve-wracking to see my idea go straight to the people running the company.”
Eastman Kodak, the one-time film giant, now has divisions that focus on inkjet printing, printing for packaging and functional printing, which explores how conductive inks can be made and deposited to create a printed circuit board or printed electrode. Scientists in Kodak’s research labs study a wide range of topics with far-reaching applications in the search to develop new ideas.
Prior to her internship at Kodak, Deborah spent four years focusing on polymer synthesis and characterization, and devoting two years to product formulation and commercialization, collaboration and project management at Stony Brook and at an undergraduate internship.
“Many scientists wind up leading projects and managing product development,” says Deborah. “They all must have the ability to understand and communicate complicated ideas effectively along with having general scientific knowledge.”
Both research and product development appeal to Deborah as she eyes her career path, which took an interesting twist between the time she finished her undergraduate education at the University of West Florida and began at Stony Brook. Before working at an aquarium as a marine educator, Deborah had taken an internship at a chemical company in Pensacola, Florida, and that’s when her eyes opened to the variety of career tracks available in that industry.
“Even though I loved doing educational programs at the aquarium, I thought that pursuing a PhD in chemistry might be a better way to find a career with more opportunities for future growth and job satisfaction,” Deborah says. “I particularly liked the idea of making products that would impact peoples’ lives and being part of processes where small improvements can have big environmental outcomes — the ability to use chemistry to solve problems in manufacturing, healthcare or energy, for example.”
And yet Deborah managed to retain her ties to the marine world she so loves by participating in the Port Jefferson Dragon Boat Race Festival last fall. “I did both drumming and rowing during the event and our team made it to the finals,” she says. “Being on the water is really relaxing and a great break from research, especially since I grew up in Florida and sailed throughout my undergraduate days.”
It’s no surprise that Deborah sees great value in student internships. “The experience gave me a good chance to develop a strategic outlook in terms of prioritizing assigned projects, working with others and understanding the etiquette of different business cultures,” she says.
For those students contemplating or already embarking upon a career in chemistry, Deborah advises them to join research groups, such as those run by the Departments of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Brookhaven National Laboratory.
“Collaboration is useful as you move forward,” she said, adding that the support her Department of Chemistry advisors provided — encouraging her to serve internships, conduct experiments at national labs, attend conferences where she gave presentations on her research and sign up for training sessions where she learned x-ray and neutron scattering techniques — all helped her to become the problem-solver she is today.
“At Stony Brook, I enjoyed being near a national lab, but there are also a lot of intriguing opportunities in the Northeast available for me after graduation,” Deborah says.
— Glenn Jochum