Carnegie Mellon University
May 11, 2015

Brooke Kuei selected as Student Commencement Speaker

Brooke KueiBrooke Kuei, a senior Physics major, has been selected as the Student Commencement Speaker this year. She is the first Physics student to have been given this honor.

Uncertainty can be daunting, but it also can be exciting, encouraging, inspiring and filled with endless possibilities. That's the outlook Brooke Kuei prefers and the one she'll relay to her classmates as this year's Commencement student speaker. "I feel like a lot of people see graduation as the end of something, but I want to remind them that this is just the beginning," she said, "that we have our entire lives to keep reaching for our dreams."

Kuei also wants her classmates to recall how CMU has made them better and stronger. "We have all grown a lot since coming here, each in our respective ways, and I want everyone to be proud of their accomplishments, as well as those of their fellow graduates, and to feel confident and ready for life after Carnegie Mellon," she said.

A physics major with a minor in professional writing, Kuei will receive her bachelor's degree with University Honors, a distinction earned by graduates with a 3.5 grade-point average or higher. In addition to excelling academically, Kuei was an active member of the campus community, serving as a teaching assistant for physics classes and as a mentor for the physics outreach program. She was a founding member of CMU's women's varsity golf team, and used her writing skills to be Science and Technology editor of the Tartan, and managing editor of the Dossier Literary and Arts Magazine. Kuei will be headed to Penn State in the fall to pursue a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering and to advance her research in energy science.

Brooke Kuei (S'15)

Science writer, energy science researcher

Writing Her Own Story

photo of Brooke Kuei reading in a coffee shopBrooke Kuei never expected that an interview she conducted for the university’s student newspaper would shape her college experience. But that one interview changed everything.

Kuei, a senior physics major and professional writing minor, came to Carnegie Mellon with an interest in studying astrophysics, but she also really loved writing poems and short stories. During her sophomore year, she combined her interests and started writing for the science and technology section of The Tartan, Carnegie Mellon’s student newspaper. She interviewed Gabriela Hug, an assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy, for a story about the electric grid. The topic caught Kuei’s interest.

“That’s one thing that I really like about writing for The Tartan—I get to meet all these different professors in so many different fields and just learn about random things that I never would have been exposed to,” Kuei said.

As her sophomore year progressed, Kuei’s interests shifted away from astrophysics toward a more applied field: the electric grid and energy science in general. She applied for the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) summer program, and was accepted into an REU at the Cornell Center for Materials Research at Cornell University. Kuei joined Professor Héctor Abruña’s group and spent the summer working with graduate student Gabriel Rodriguez on a project testing whether the material 2,5-dimercapto-1,3,4-thiadiazole (DMcT) could potentially be used as a better electrode material than what’s currently used in lithium ion batteries.

When she got back to Pittsburgh she started looking into who at CMU was doing similar research. Her investigation led her to Jay Whitacre, associate professor of materials science and engineering and engineering and public policy. Kuei contacted Whitacre and has been working in his lab ever since. Her research project, which combines physics and chemistry, focuses on the design of polymer binder systems that could improve large-scale energy storage.

“I’ve been doing research with one of Professor Whitacre’s grad students, Alex Mohamed. He’s super-smart and knows everything about batteries. It’s really awesome.”

The summer after her junior year, Kuei participated in another REU, this time at Penn State University. There, she expanded her energy research experience through a project that involved developing solar cells out of a class of materials called perovskites.

Kuei, who still writes for The Tartan, plans to attend graduate school to continue pursuing her interest in energy research. Although her interests did not end up falling in the typical fields of physics, she knows that her physics degree will serve her well.

“Physics is the science behind everything. That’s my opinion, but I’m biased!”