Kurt was raised on a grain farm in North Dakota where he developed an interest in understanding how to sustainably produce the world's food. He majored in the biological sciences as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago before obtaining his PhD in microbiology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth by studying bacterial signaling in the laboratory of George O'Toole. At Caltech, he researched how the microbes that colonize the roots of food crops compete and collaborate with one another to form communities that govern plant health and yield. His aim was to learn how to manipulate the composition of these microbial communities in order to confer resistance to disease or drought upon the crops.
Kurt is currently an assistant professor of microbiology at the University of Georgia.