Transforming the world with 75 patents…
In an ever changing world, there are but a handful of unsung heroes whose path-breaking innovations are helping us transition to the modern world in myriad ways. One such luminary is the learned Dr. Lawrence Kool, whose timely inventions have resolved some of the most complex problems of our times. With 75+ patents to his name, Dr. Kool is among the most respected Research Scientists in the world today. Employed with GE Research for more than two decades, he currently serves as a Senior Scientist (Project manager, individual contributor, principal investigator) in the global organization.
Based in New York, United States, Lawrence was always a super achiever, which can be gathered from his exemplary educational journey. After completing a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (1970-1974), he pursued a Ph.D. (Organic chemistry, Inorganic chemistry, Organometallic chemistry) from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (1982-1986), followed by yet another Postdoctoral position in Chemistry at Harvard University (1987-1989). In between, he also studied at the Universitaet Bavreuth in Germany for two years (1985-1986).
While in Michigan, Lawrence worked at KMS Fusion as a Research Chemist from 1976-1985, and as a Consultant at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California, in 1984. Yet interestingly, after completing his education, he chose to teach students at Boston College over garnering a lucrative job. Becoming an Assistant Professor, he taught graduate courses in Inorganic, Organometallic and Organic Chemistry for more than 7 years from 1998-1995, a task he found so inherently fulfilling that he has continued to mentor students time and again throughout his journey.
Eventually, Lawrence landed at Generic Electric after his teaching stint in 1995. An experienced and tenured Research Chemist, he first joined General Electric (GE) Superabrasives in Worthington, Ohio, as a Senior Research Scientist, responsible for manufacture of industrial man-made diamond and cubic boron nitride. In 1999, he moved to GE Global Research in Niskayuna, NY, where he excelled at research on high-temperature materials related to aviation, power generation, accident tolerant nuclear, and automotive industries. He’s now a bonafide expert in advanced coatings for extreme environments, to improve performance and extend component life.
“For several years, I collaborated with colleagues in Shanghai to develop a high-temperature coke-preventing catalyst that extended the productive lifetime by five-fold of ethylene-producing steam crackers that has revolutionized the production of probably the most widely-used feedstock for all of organic chemistry,” he shares.
Today, Lawrence is a Senior Scientist with General Electric and leads in a multitude of roles such as Project Manager, Individual Contributor, and Principal Investigator. His wide range of work encompasses new materials that must perform in extreme environments, e.g. catalysis, high-temperature ceramic matrix composites, and a broad range of specialized coatings. This has led to a broad portfolio of Intellectual Property from which General Electric derives a competitive advantage and licensing revenue.
“I have a passion for high-impact, difficult problems that must be solved urgently and efficiently,” he says. Having solved many problems already, Lawrence has been a recipient of the most prestigious international awards such as the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award.
Nevertheless, his greatest achievements are codified in Issued Patents with rights to practice owned by his current and previous employers. These number 75, and counting. He has also published a good number of Scientific Papers that are frequently cited by researchers around the globe. To keep abreast of his industry, he has maintained affiliation with the American Chemical Society and is a past member of the American Metallurgical Society.
Ask Lawrence whether he believes in hard work or luck, and he is quick to attribute his success to a combination of both. More importantly, he considers himself very fortunate to work with brilliant colleagues in global teams to find solutions to tough problems. A big believer in the power of collaboration, his unique take on the rat race is: “I am in a rat race with cute, friendly rats and a few very lovely tigers.”
Admired by colleagues and youngsters alike, Lawrence is a sought after Thought Leader in his field. Sharing his idea of leadership, he says, “A good leader leads by example and removes barriers to progress… things like bureaucracy, petty infighting, territorialism, etc. A good leader celebrates the successes of those they lead.”
With an extensive experience of 45 years and a determination to push for change, Lawrence is not one to rest on his laurels. His desire is to be able to continue and build upon his portfolio of inventions and solve complex problems. His current passion is to contribute to global decarbonization (clean energy) for both aerospace and electricity generation. The deadline is 2050, he states.
Looking back on the past four decades, Lawrence shares his learnings, most of which go a long way in cultivating a winning habit. “I have learned that hard work, persistence and the ability to abandon bad ideas, has been very helpful. When evaluating new ideas, first make sure that they adhere to first principles, i.e. laws of thermodynamics. I have also learned that humbly seeking the advice of expert mentors in a given field is irreplaceable. I have learned to closely follow the latest scientific literature related to the problem at hand. The ready availability of publications and patents online in recent years saves me a lot of time that could be wasted ‘reinventing the wheel’. And I try to have fun inside and outside of work,” says Lawrence, who enjoys cycling and playing billiards in his free time.
Sharing his favourite quote by David Foster Wallace, he sums up: “The truth will set you free, but only when it is finished with you.” Spoken like the brilliant scientist he is!