Ken Inge

Ken Inge

Ken Inge

Class of 2003

Nationality: American


How many years did you attend YIS?
I attended YIS for nine years. I arrived in 1994 and graduated in 2003.
Where you are based now, and what is your occupation?
I live and work in Stockholm, Sweden as a researcher in chemistry at Stockholm University.
You were recently involved in a project to make hand sanitizer for hospitals in their work with the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us about that effort? 

A professor working at the Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry at the university proposed the idea of producing hand sanitizer for hospitals to assist them in their work with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our efforts resulted in our teams producing 3000 liters of hand sanitizer per day.

I was asked to manage two teams of chemists each with five members. The team members included PhD students and postdoctoral researchers from various natural science departments at the university, and all had volunteered to help with production. It was a little bit of a challenge getting everything up and running. Usually in the chemistry research lab we work at a very small scale developing typically milligrams or at most a few grams of new materials. So there was quite a contrast when all of a sudden we wanted to produce hundreds or even thousands of liters of hand sanitizer per day. We converted some of the teaching and research labs for production, and asked all volunteers to try to gather reagents and equipment we needed from their own labs. It was really a team effort. Much of my time was dedicated towards making sure that the teams had everything they needed for production and training new volunteers. Once everything was running smoothly we were producing up to 3000 liters per day between all teams at Stockholm University. The best part of the whole experience was getting to know all the volunteers involved. Everyone had very good intentions and I felt we all inspired one another. 


Which teachers played an important role in your time at YIS?

Chemistry with Mark Wycherley was definitely my favorite class. I’ve always enjoyed the natural sciences. By making classes fun, Mr. Wycherley helped develop my passion for chemistry.  I still find chemistry to be a fun topic which is why I’ve decided to pursue a career as a researcher in chemistry.

What is your most memorable moment from your time at YIS?

I remember one day at the start of geography class our teacher John Healam mentioned that there was a simple test to see if people at school/work are kind. He mentioned that occasionally he would leave a blank sheet of paper on the floor in the corridor between classes to see if anyone in the crowd of students and staff would bother to pick it up and throw it away properly or if everyone would ignore the sheet of paper and leave it there. That was an important life lesson for me. Don’t expect other people to do what should be done. Take initiative yourself.

Have you been back to campus since you graduated, and do you stay in close contact with your YIS friends?

I did visit campus during summer holidays for the first few years after graduating. I would love to see how things have or haven’t changed now!  I do stay in contact with my friends from YIS, but I don’t see them as often as I would like to since we are spread out over three continents. I’m sure many of us will remain friends for life.  I still play fantasy baseball with my YIS friends and former YIS math teacher Richard Whitlock.  We’ve played every year since our time in high school and are just starting our 18th year! It’s comforting knowing that even though we’ve all grown up, deep down we are still very similar to who we were when we were students at YIS.

Which grade-level or class at YIS would you want to relive, and why? Would you do anything differently?

I would relive my senior year.  I was rather shy back then and I regret not getting to know some of my classmates better. A few years ago I met up with one of my former classmates that I barely spoke with during my YIS years. We got along really well when we met, and it made me wish we had known each other better during our school years. At least I learned that it’s never too late to make new friends!  

Which aspects of your YIS education helped prepare you the most for your current professional and personal life?

As I mentioned in an earlier question, my former chemistry teacher Mr. Wycherley played an important role in sparking my interest in chemistry.  I feel very fortunate that I can have a career involving work which I find to be very fun. It’s a fantastic thing when teachers can make learning enjoyable and make students curious. 

Given your achievements and experiences, what advice would you give to YIS students?

If you see paper on the corridor floor, pick it up and recycle it!