Tue, 12/20/2022 – 10:59 am , By: Ivonne Kavas
The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) School of Polymer Science and Engineering (SPSE) has been named one of the Best Polymer/Plastics Engineering Programs by Plastics Today. The ABET-accredited program is located within the Thames Polymer Science Research Center on the Hattiesburg campus.
USM is one of six university programs recognized in this prestigious plastics industry publication. Over the past 52 years, USM has established itself as one of the premier schools of polymer science and engineering in the world, preparing graduates to secure jobs in industry. In particular, coatings are a fundamental part of the programme, with dedicated coursework, scholarships and job placements in the coatings industry.
“This ranking confirms what we know at Southern Miss, namely that our School of Polymer Science and Engineering leads the way in preparing our graduates for the industries of today and of the future.” Dr. Chris Winstead, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The plastics industry is an important and strategic component of our economy, with manufacturing and environmental improvements enabled by the developments of the Southern Miss researchers.”
According to a 2022 report by the Plastics Industry Association, the plastics industry ranked as the sixth largest in the US in 2020, making it a high-paying, in-demand and lucrative career path for future plastics engineers; However, due to the challenges and constraints in the industry, graduates will need to be highly skilled in digital fabrication.
SPSE Assistant Director Brett Calhoun said USM has been ahead of the industry 4.0 era curve for years through a curriculum that focuses on in-demand skills.
“Our curriculum prepares students for advanced manufacturing and sustainability,” said Calhoun. “High-throughput formulation using robotics was introduced to our students nearly two decades ago; Students at all levels engage in using 3D printing on many fronts, including prototyping for senior design projects and the development of new resins for printers.
Additionally, Calhoun highlighted that a commitment to sustainability and innovation is key to overcoming barriers and challenges to plastics recycling and creating a circular economy.
“The School of Sustainability has a research emphasis that includes the development of new materials from biobased feedstocks, polymer degradation, recycling of conventional plastics, and environmental remediation using separation membranes,” Calhoun said.
SPSE Director Dr. Derek Patten added, “Plastics sustainability is a key issue for many industrial sectors that is being driven by increased consumer awareness. While the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” is still Applied, a comprehensive solution to plastics sustainability requires innovation in many areas, including how plastics are synthesized, processed and reprocessed,” he said. “For example, there is increasing demand for plastics to develop eco-friendly building blocks that meet or exceed the performance of petroleum-based materials, as well as loop through the recovery of these building blocks at the end.” provide opportunities to close. -use.”
“These issues provide areas where academic research can contribute to real societal impacts,” he added. “In the classroom or through applied research, SPSE faculty are committed to developing the next generation of polymer scientists and engineers who approach problems with sustainable practices in mind.”
Additionally, SPSE is known for making an impact in the industry by bringing together academic and industrial scholars from around the world for its annual International Waterborne Symposium.
“This pre-eminent educational and technical forum showcases new and innovative technologies and keeps scholars abreast of important discoveries,” said Dr. Patton.
What is the journey like as a polymer science and engineering student? Undergraduate students at Southern Miss are expected to participate in faculty-led research groups during their time at the school, with many beginning as early as their freshman year to gain hands-on experience in a research-and-design environment. had started.
During their sophomore year, students begin to gain a broader perspective of the nature of research and design, as they participate in laboratory rotations. During their senior year, students participate in a senior design project. Students also conduct sponsored, real-world research projects under the direction of a faculty mentor and usually a graduate student or postdoctoral mentor. Projects are sponsored through grants and awards from organizations such as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and various industrial partners.
Learn more about the School of Polymer Science and Engineering at USM.