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Dr. Joey Kish: My Career as a Corrosion Scientist – Design, Chance or Fate?

My name is Joey Kish and I am a Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at McMaster University in Canada specializing in corrosion and its control. Do you remember that dreaded question back in primary and secondary school—what do you want to be when you grow up? That question always scared me given that I had no idea! Well, that is not quite true. Growing up in Canada, I wanted to be a professional hockey player of course. The critical point came in Grade 10 when I had the make a life altering decision: (i) continue with the fruitless dream of making it to the National Hockey League (NHL) or (ii) get a part-time job to start saving for a university education. Given that I have written this essay, the choice was option (ii). Upon making the critical decision to go to university, in a word, serendipity took hold of my professional journey. Three key decision points readily come to mind that form the basis of my argument.

The first key moment was making the choice of which university and program to enroll in. Students in Canada could apply to three universities free of charge. I applied to a pharmacy, accounting-math, and an engineering program (in that order of preference): each at a different university. I was accepted into the accounting-math and engineering programs, but only the latter with guaranteed residence. Living in residence was a key university experience: hence the engineering program was my choice! Talk about really thinking things through!

The second key moment was a summer intern position at a local oil refinery in the inspection department. So there I was, armed with a flashlight, pitting gauge, and a portable hand-held U/T thickness gauge crawling externally around and internally through vessels and tanks documenting the extent of … corrosion! The internship experience was incredible. I was acquiring a rapid education on four of the “M”s of corrosion: mode, mechanism, monitoring, and mitigation. More importantly, I finally saw a career unfolding in front of my eyes.

The third key moment was an appointment with Prof. Brian Ives (my future graduate studies advisor) to talk about the senior thesis course. Needless to say, the senior undergraduate thesis experience blossomed into a graduate thesis and a Ph.D. under Prof. Ives’s supervision. One of the many takeaways from him was the value of NACE membership and service to the corrosion community at large. I will never forget my first CORROSION annual conference (Baltimore, MD in 1994) to see the corrosion community coming together to share cutting-edge research, technical information and experience, and testing, monitoring, and mitigation products. It was the “yes, I definitely want to be part of this” moment.

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