Kathleen Alexander received her PhD at MIT in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering studying microstructural defects in materials. At the age of 16, she realized that she wanted to pursue a career in science and engineering after creating a business model for a composting and recycling company. In the process, she came to the realization that science, a pursuit which she had not previously had any interest in, was the key to solving the world’s most difficult challenges. To this end, she decided that she wanted to spend her life developing the technology that would eradicate landfills from this planet. Kathleen began her study of science and engineering at a community college in Sacramento, California. In 2008, she was accepted to MIT as a transfer student where she completed a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering. In her final semester as an undergraduate, Kathleen designed a project to model plasma arc gasification of municipal solid waste and investigate this technology as a potential means of waste management. This project was particularly fulfilling as it allowed her to work towards a solution to the problem that had first inspired her to pursue a career in science and engineering.
In her PhD work, Kathleen developed a new off-lattice kinetic Monte Carlo method for modeling the kinetic behavior or complex microstructural defects like grain boundaries on experimentally relevant time and temperature scales. This work will help advance the field of grain boundary engineering, a technique that has shown great promise for vastly improving performance properties, such as corrosion and cracking resistance, of metals and ceramics. After finishing her PhD, Kathleen began working at a start-up in Cambridge, MA where she is continuing to pursue research projects related to the development and implementation of sustainable technologies that will have a high impact on the movement towards global sustainability. She plans to continue engaging with the local community to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.
Kathleen is from Corvallis, Oregon.