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New facility to continue pioneering research

Mississippi Polymer Institute still breaking ground

For years, the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials at the University of Southern Mississippi has been educating students in the theory and practice of polymer science, which is revolutionary and changing the face of our society.

Shelby Thames, Ph.D., earned a B.S. and M.S. in chemistry from Southern Miss in 1959 and 1961, respectively. He earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Tennessee in 1964. Thames has served as a Distinguished University Research Professor in the Polymer Science Department since 1986, and in 2002, he accepted the presidency at the university. Today, he is back in the Polymer Science Department as it goes through a tremendous growth phase.

“We are nationally ranked as one of the top three polymer science and engineering programs in America — I think in the world, as well,” said Thames. “We are actively engaged in performing scientific and engineering work to improve the commercialization potential of new products developed in house and by outside participating companies.”

Thames said that the new Innovation and Commercialization Park has been established on an old golf course and encompasses 521 acres.

“Construction of the 50,000-square-foot National Formulation Science Laboratory is well underway and expected to be completed in October of this year,” Thames said.

The lab will have a business incubator section, a pilot plant facility for scale-up of polymeric materials and composites, a business incubator portion of the building and a high output laboratory to speed up formulation of marketable products.

“Of course, we will be utilizing nano-materials in most of our new product initiatives,” said Thames.

The Mississippi Polymer Institute (MPI) will be housed in the new facility. The state-of-the art polymer laboratory provides technical and scientific support to Mississippi inventors and entrepreneurs who are actually pursuing the development and commercialization of polymer-based innovations. That support includes the selection, formulation and compounding of new materials, application and testing of developmental products as well as the design, synthesis and manufacture of new polymeric materials.

In addition to the laboratory, the Mississippi Polymer Institute will also feature processing and piloting equipment, which will provide the resources required to support the technical and scientific needs of existing polymer industry members. It will assist start-up companies pursuing the commercialization of innovative new polymer products created by university researchers and private inventors.

The Mississippi Polymer Institute’s new facility will also be capable of supporting the design, synthesis, characterization, start-up and commercialization of new and innovative polymeric materials for all commercially viable polymer applications including marine, aerospace, transportation, construction, pharmaceutical, sports, military, coatings, adhesives, packaging and conventional plastic products.

The Mississippi Polymer Institute offers computer-aided design (CAD) services to companies and individuals who need them for rapid prototyping, product documentation or other needs. Using CAD software, team members can create 2-D and 3-D files that will assist manufacturers in delivering their products to market.

“The Mississippi Polymer Institute provides support to Mississippi businesses of all types that have need of technical assistance, high-tech equipment use, consultation of polymer science and engineering faculty,” Thames said.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at 4becky@cox.net.


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