Commencement 2017: URI Graduate School Commencement to feature journalist and chemist as speakers, May 20

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Elizabeth Kohr. Photo by Nora Lewis

KINGSTON, R.I. — May 12, 2017 — The University of Rhode Island Graduate School will shine a bright light on research at this year’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 20, 2017 at 9 a.m. in the Thomas M. Ryan Center, One Lincoln Almond Plaza, Kingston Campus.

More than 740 students will receive their master’s or doctoral degrees in a variety of fields. During the ceremony, they will also hear from one of the University’s honored guests, Thomas Farragher of the Boston Globe and Elizabeth Kohr from the Graduate Student Association executive board.

Farragher, is an investigative journalist and columnist who is perhaps best known as part of the Globe‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning Spotlight Team. The team’s courageous research and sustained determination revealed a decades-long cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by priests within the Archdiocese of Boston. He co-authored the book Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church that told the whole chilling, truthful story, which was then captured in the 2015 Academy Award winning film Spotlight. A 1977 graduate of URI’s Harrington School of Communication and Media, Farragher will be presented with the Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, during the undergraduate commencement ceremony at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 21.

Kohr of Riverside, R.I., may take a similar intense approach to research, yet her subject matter genuinely has explosive properties. The chemistry major has been investigating the chemistry of sensors and the surprising variance that is created with just minor adjustments in thickness of coatings on gold.

“Not many people look at the actions and reactions of layers of a substance on a given surface,” she explained. “I tell folks to consider frisbee art — there’s an entirely different outcome with every layer. My ‘art’ provides a different view of behaviors for some of the common chemicals used in research of explosive detection. This is the kind of research we need to create explosive sensors.”

Kohr will receive her master’s degree in chemistry this month, but she will also earn her Master of Business Administration from URI in August. Though she has taught chemistry to undergraduates and children, she plans to bring her chemical insights right into the business arena.

“Many companies may benefit from my broad science background,” she said. “With the chemicals that may be involved with new product development in any number of industries, my background will be very useful — both in chemistry and business.”

Though Kohr is very well known by chemistry students and faculty, she has also been an active member of the University’s Graduate Assistants United (GAU). There she’s helped with the contract negotiations that took place last year, presenting student needs before the Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education.

Kohr grew up in Andover, Mass. and received her Bachelor of Science degree from Waynesburg University in Pennsylvania. She majored in Chemistry and Forensic Science, with minors in mathematics and biology, and graduated Magna Cum Laude . Through her undergraduate years, Kohr was a tutor, lab assistant and undergraduate researcher.

As she wrote in the acknowledgements section of her thesis, Kohr is very thankful for the support she received throughout graduate school, from URI Professor William Euler, to her parents, and also to her high school sweetheart and husband, Jeffrey Kohr.

Graduate Student Facts

  • Among the graduates, 472 are Rhode Island residents, 84 are from Massachusetts, 49 from Connecticut, 17 from New York and 14 from New Jersey.
  • Consistent with national trends, the majority of URI grad students, 441, are women and 290 are men.
  • There are 18 Veterans, the youngest grad student is 21 and the oldest is 77.