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Student Wins $250,000 Hertz Fellowship

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A University of Kansas senior has received a $250,000 fellowship from the Hertz Foundation.

Chemical engineering major Brandon James DeKosky joins 14 other undergraduate students from some of the most prestigious universities in the country in earning the fellowship. The Hertz Fellowship is awarded each year to a select group of gifted applied scientists and engineers with “the potential to change the world for the better” as they work to earn a doctorate.
Brandon DeKosky

“The thing that I’m most excited about is the flexibility that it’s going to give me in terms of my graduate research,” said DeKosky. “It’s going to give me the freedom to do off the beaten path research.”

A native of Overland Park, DeKosky is in the process of selecting a graduate school at which to put the fellowship to use. He plans to work on developing new biological products like antibodies or proteins, with a focus on alternative fuels.

“I’m really interested in metabolic engineering — things like taking the energy that’s in agriculture waste like cornstalks, wheat stalks or switch grass and converting it into a usable fuel,” DeKosky said.

Hertz Fellowships are unique no-strings-attached fellowships, which allow exceptional applied scientists and engineers the freedom to innovate. Hertz Fellows pursue their own ideas with financial independence under the guidance of the finest professors at the country’s top universities. Hertz Fellows are chosen for their intellect, ingenuity and potential to bring meaningful and lasting change to society.

Since May 2008, DeKosky has been a member of an interdisciplinary team at KU researching tissue engineering led by Michael Detamore, associate professor, and Stevin Gehrke, professor, who teach in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and the bioengineering graduate program.

“He’s an impressive multitalented individual,” Detamore said. “From sports to music and academics, he exemplifies great achievement in the classroom and in the lab.”

DeKosky’s work ethic and approach also win praise.

“As an undergrad researcher, he really stands out,” Gehrke said. “He has a lot of initiative and a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of ideas. He’s hard working, but easy going as well.”

But around the School of Engineering, DeKosky is known for more than being an excellent student.

“He is passionate about his work, and he is delightful to talk to,” said Alexis McKinley Jones, recruitment director at the engineering school. “He’s personable, kind, funny and an excellent role model. Brandon is extremely bright, and he is also very well-rounded. He plays the guitar. He is into biking. He serves as a mentor for the SELF leadership program. He participated in a study abroad program in Costa Rica where he not only took Spanish language classes but also courses like Linear Algebra and Science of Materials in Spanish and did very well.”

DeKosky said the time the he’s spent at KU has set a foundation for continued success.

“The research that I’ve done here and the people that I’ve worked with have really trained me to be an independent researcher,” DeKosky said. “That’s what I’m going to capitalize on in the future.”

The Hertz Fellowship is the latest achievement for DeKosky. In spring 2009, he was honored nationally as a Nagel Scholar by Tau Beta Pi, the national honor society for engineering students, and as a recipient of the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. For two years, DeKosky has served the School of Engineering as one of its ambassadors who work with prospective students. He is a National Merit Scholar and a member of the University Honors Program. He is the son of Deborah DeKosky and Robert DeKosky, of Overland Park, and a graduate of Blue Valley Northwest High School.

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