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Pratt Profile: Isvar Cordova

  • PhD candidate, Electrical & Computer Engineering (Expected Graduation: Spring 2018)
  • Studying surface science and electrochemistry with Dr. Jeffrey Glass. Currently researching the optimization of nanoscale materials deposited via atomic layer deposition for various devices, including electrodes used for hydrogen production through photoelectrochemical water splitting.

Isvar Cordova

Where are you from?

I was born in Venezuela and moved to Bolivia when I turned 6. I then moved to the United States when I was 12 years old. So I have a bit of a difficult time defining exactly “where I’m from.”

What was your undergrad degree and where did you get it?

I have two bachelor’s degrees. One is in economics from UNC Chapel Hill, and the other is in physics from North Carolina Central University. 

Why did you choose Duke?

I have always had an interest in renewable energy. Nanotechnology is also fascinating to me with the different possibilities it offers. The lab group here allowed me to combine both interests so that I could get the most enjoyment out of my research—right now I’m using various nanostructures to facilitate the direct conversion of light into chemical energy in the form of hydrogen gas.

What organizations are you involved in?

I am on the Engineering Graduate Student Council, where I was the ECE representative last year and I will be the treasurer for the 2013-2014 academic year. I am also vice President of Duke’s chapter of the Materials Research Society, a member of SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers), and I play intramural sports. Sometimes it can be difficult to balance all these extracurricular activities, but I think that learning how to prioritize your time while maximizing your impact on the community is part of the unique Duke graduate student experience.

Tell us something about yourself that otherwise we wouldn’t know or guess.

I am Hispanic and Irish, although most people guess that I am Turkish for some reason. I guess that my first name confuses a lot of people. Probably because it is an Indian name derived from ancient Sanskrit, a language with which most people aren’t familiar.

What’s ahead for you after graduation?

I want to gain experience working in a start-up company; then I would like to eventually become a CEO and own my own company. In this regard, Jeff (my advisor) has been a great mentor to me since he has had success in both industry and academia. In addition to offering his scientific guidance, he also makes sure that his students remain conscientious of the interpersonal and professional skills that are essential to any prosperous career.