Kevin Kornegay (Finding Aid)

Kevin Kornegay

1959 -

Favorite Color: Red

Favorite Food: Curried Chicken

Favorite Time of Year: Winter to Spring and Summer to Fall

Favorite Vacation Spot: South America

Interview Length: 186 minutes

Interview Date(s): April 15, 2011

Interview Location(s): Atlanta, Georgia


Kevin Kornegay slates his interview and shares his favorites. His mother, Dorothy Lattie Scott, was born in 1928 in Mobile, Alabama. Her family moved to New York when she was very young. She was pregnant and married before she completed high school, but later became an elementary school teacher. Kornegay's father, Thomas Earl Kornegay, Sr., was born in 1925 in Mount Olive, North Carolina. After the deaths of his parents, Kornegay, Sr., was responsible for raising his nine younger siblings. His youngest brothers, Wade and Robert, earned advanced degrees in computer science and electrical engineering. Kornegay, Sr., later worked for the New York City Transit Authority and died in 1987. Kornegay was the fourth of five children. He recalls his childhood neighborhood in Springfield Gardens, New York, a predominantly black middle class community. Kornegay remembers the smell of his mother's cooking and visiting his paternal grandfather's grave with his family.

Kevin Kornegay recalls his early interest in science and reading. After missing a year of school because he had developed Rheumatic Fever and spent much of his time in the hospital, Kornegay returned to school and skipped the eighth grade. He attended Public School-80 and then Junior High School 72 near his neighborhood. The school was fairly mixed early on, but as he progressed through school, the student body became predominantly black. Kornegay recalls that his mother taught at his elementary and middle schools. In high school, which was about forty-five minutes away from him neighborhood, Kornegay pursued his interest in science on the honors academic track. During high school, Kornegay played as receiver on the football team, participated in the school jazz band, and was on the group that was the state-wide semi-finalist in the Westinghouse Science Talent Program.

Kevin Kornegay describes his decision to become an electrical engineer after serving one summer as an intern at Bell Laboratories while he was a college student at Pratt Institute. At Bell Laboratories, Kornegay worked under James West, co-inventor of the foil electret microphone, and he met other African American scientists, including Shirley Jackson and James Mitchell. He received a scholarship from Bell Laboratories and worked there subsequent summers. During college, Kornegay also was a successful DJ. Although he considered staying in the profession, he was interested in signal transfer technology and received his B.S. degree in electrical engineering in 1985. He continued to work at Bell Laboratories and was encouraged to pursue graduate studies with a leader in speech-processing engineering, Robert Broderson, at the University of California, Berkeley. After his father's death in 1987, Kornegay received support from uncles, Wade and Robert Kornegay, to continue his studies in engineering.

Kevin Kornegay recalls his decision to study at the University of California, Berkeley for graduate school after he had received a Bell Laboratories Research Fellowship. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering in 1990 and 1992, respectively At Berkeley, Kornegay was active in the Black Engineering and Science Students Association (BESSA) to increase the number of under-represented faculty and graduate students in engineering. He recalls faculty members William Lester and Robert Bragg, and fellow students, Gary May, Valerie Taylor and Colin Paris. Kornegay explains his graduate research in testing functionality in digital systems. Kornegay did not feel particularly close to his advisor, Robert Broderson, and remembers doing a good deal of independent work during his graduate studies. After graduate school, Kornegay was employed by International Business Machines as a corporate troubleshooter for system platforms at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center.

Kevin Kornegay talks about his decision to return to academia in 1994, noting that IBM was in discussions about divesting from research. Kornegay's research work was able to shift as needed because he developed a strong academic background at the University of California, Berkeley. His research was focused on the applications of silicon carbide, a new semi-conductor material, to be used in electronic devices. Kornegay worked at Purdue University for a short period because of concerns about an unfriendly community atmosphere in West Lafayette, Indiana. After serving on the faculty of Massachusetts Institute of Technology for one year, Kornegay was hired at Cornell University in 1997. He became the supervisor for the student group competing in the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle competition sponsored by the Office of the Naval Research. The team from Cornell University won the championship the same weekend that Kornegay secured funding from Qualcomm for his research group.

Kevin Kornegay concludes his discussion on the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition of 2003. After recognizing some of the awards that he has received, he discusses his research in data-transport and some of the challenges his research group addressed in their work from 2004 to 2006, and the ever-present challenge of increasing the speed of the Internet. In considering the future of information technology, Kornegay states that he believes new devices will rely on external processors and quick access to information and the internet will need to adapt to meet these demands. During his career as a professor, Kornegay has supervised twenty-four graduate students, four of whom were African American. Kornegay is concerned about the black male youth in American society and he emphasizes the importance of establishing positive black male role models.

Kevin Kornegay discusses his family members, including his two sons who are eighteen and fourteen years old. His mother [Dorothy Lattie Scott Kornegay] is still living. Kornegay talks about how he would like to be remembered as a person who loved to help others succeed.

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