Featured Alum: Brian Polk, Chemistry, 1997

The following is written by Brian Polk:

I received a B.S. in Chemistry Summa Cum Laude from Christian Brothers University in 1997. I was honored to be co-recipient of the Bro. Dominic Dunn Award that year. I had several career related experiences as an undergraduate. At various times, I was as a teaching assistant for chemistry labs at CBU, I worked as a laboratory technician at Great Lakes Chemical, and I did research at the University of Kentucky.

I was granted a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia) in 2002. During the course of grad school I won several competitive fellowships including the Presidential Fellowship from Georgia Tech, the Graduate Research Fellowship from the Division of Analytical Chemistry of the American Chemical Society, and a Traineeship in Environmental Science from the National Science Foundation. With support from the ACS fellowship, I was able to spend three months doing research at Dublin City University (Dublin, Ireland) in 2000.

From 2002 to 2004, I was a National Academy of Science / National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, Gaithersburg , Maryland ). In 2004 I was promoted to Research Chemist in the Semiconductor Electronics Division of NIST.

My research revolves around microfabrication, electrochemistry, and chemical sensors. I am particularly interested in solving the problems associated with integration of electronics, sensors, and fluidics. As part of a team in BioElectronics, I am developing chemical senors contained within integrated microfluidic systems. The team’s efforts are ultimately aimed at improving the reliability, accuracy, and traceability of portable biochemical diagnostic equipment. Much of the current work focuses on forensic DNA analysis in an effort to alleviate the long lag time between evidence collection and analysis. Many of our technologies could also be used in bedside diagnostic equipment in hospitals or doctor’s offices.

In addition to my primary job in research, I am a part-time faculty member of Montgomery College. MC is a two-year community college in Maryland. I’ve taught general chemistry lecture and lab and organic chemistry lab. This fall I will teach an introductory chemistry lecture and a general chemistry lab. I find teaching challenging but rewarding. Through teaching I can give back to my instructors and mentors by following their examples. It also provides me with the opportunity to promote public understanding of science in general.

Despite the success I’ve experienced in my career so far, it pales in importance next to my family. I married my college sweetheart, Cathy Eichholz (CBU, Comp.Sci. ’99) on June 19 of 1999. Cathy also attended graduate school at Georgia Tech, finishing with an M.S. in Computer Science in 2002. This spring Cathy and I were blessed with our first child, a daughter. Anna Catherine Polk was born on April 11, 2006 weighing 7 pounds, 1 ounce. The family is doing wonderfully and Cathy and I celebrated a very happy anniversary this year.

Outside of research and family commitments, I try to find time to stay physically fit. I occasionally run in 10k road races, but my real interest is the martial arts. I earned a black belt in Taekwondo in 2002 at Georgia Tech. Now I’m working towards a black belt in another style called Tang Soo Do.