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Corning employee, Dr. T.J. Kiczenski: 'Inspired science and inspired fun'

Corning employee, Dr. T.J. Kiczenski

August 2014
Dr. T.J. Kiczenski’s career is devoted to the study of relaxation – but not the sort that involves a shaded hammock or a frosty brew. Glass relaxation – or, the distortions that happen when glass is heated to add electronic circuitry – is something display-makers cannot tolerate. So for T.J. and his colleagues in Corning’s Glass Research Group, “the key is to get the glass mind-blowingly stable so it does not move at all in order for the electronics to line up just right.”

T.J.’s contributions to the display glass field recently earned him recognition from some of the top materials science researchers in the world. He received the first Darshana and Arun Varshneya Frontiers of Glass Technology Award at a meeting of the American Ceramic Society and the German Society on Glass Technology in Aachen, Germany.

While attending college, a persistent physics professor “kept chirping in my ear about glass research,” T.J. recalled – and by his sophomore year he was hooked on glass.

“I was like the rest of the world. I thought the only glass was in windows and eyeglasses,” he said. “Then I learned there are scientists trying to understand the structure of glass, which by definition has no long-range structure, and it really excited me.”

During his graduate studies, T.J. met several Corning scientists and learned about the company’s various product offerings and focus on glass research.

“Before I met these scientists I knew Corningware and fiber optics and that was about it,” remembers T.J.

T.J. was so intrigued that he applied when there was a research opening at Corning a few years later.

“There was a huge breadth of research and everyone was so into what they were doing,” he said of his first visit to Corning’s research center, Sullivan Park. “I kept meeting people who were with the company 20, 30, 40 years. I only knew about Silicon Valley, where if you were with a company two years, it was a long time. Corning is a very different beast.”

The collaborative atmosphere is the key for T.J. “We get together to work on a problem and, as a team, we deliver a solution. I have not done a single thing at Corning by myself. Every concept I have developed has been with other people.”

It’s an atmosphere T.J. finds inspiring.

“If someone has a weird result, they run down the hall and talk about it with someone else. I have seen scientists get excited because they failed in an experiment. That’s what makes this a great place – the scientists are not afraid to take chances.”

T.J. and his fellow researchers often have informal meetings to discuss some of their findings. Through these meetings, T.J.’s colleagues have grown to admire his technical leadership and collaborative style.

“T.J. enjoys the give-and-take in the battle of ideas and scientific theories, and welcomes others to bring their own ideas, disagree, and help run and interpret experiments,” said a Corning research fellow and one of T.J.’s colleagues.

T.J. also helps lighten the mood, his colleague added. “He is a source of inspired science and inspired fun. If he can’t say something useful, he will always say something crazy. Meetings are less productive and less fun when T.J. is absent.”

As an ambassador for Corning, T.J. has set up summer internships – in Dr. Stookey’s name; provided new employees with an overview of glass; and met with high school students to talk about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

For T.J., developing new products “is kind-of addicting, because your team has so much riding on it. Fortunately, we work on really cool, challenging projects with other scientists who are great collaborators, and who really care about everyone getting credit.”

“That is a really big deal to me. That’s what makes Corning such a unique place."