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PMIL holds Affiliates Review

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 09 - October 19, 1995

Approximately 70 industrialists associated with Virginia Tech's Polymer Materials and Interfaces Laboratory (PMIL) attended the 1995 Affiliates Review held on campus.

Major corporations such as Eastman Chemical, Allied Signal, Phillips Petroleum, Dow Chemical, 3M Corporation, General Motors, Bayer Corporation, Eastman Kodak, General Electric Plastics, Goodyear, Michelin, Shell Development, Monsanto, DuPont, and Hoechst-Celanese were among the attendants.

PMIL is recognized by its industrial affiliates as one of the premier research groups of its kind in the United States. Co-founded in 1978 by Garth Wilkes, who holds an endowed chair in chemical engineering, and James McGrath, the recipient of an endowed chair in the chemistry department, PMIL has grown from a modest research program to one that attracts approximately $4 million annually. In addition to the chemistry and chemical engineering departments, faculty members from materials science and engineering, mechanical engineering, engineering science and mechanics, and wood science and forest products comprise the 19 members of PMIL.

Graduate students played a central role in this year's Affiliates Review program. Approximately 100 masters- and doctoral-level students, as well as post-doctoral fellows, participated in poster sessions for industrial review.

PMIL has a total of 28 master's candidates, 83 doctoral candidates, and 29 post-doctoral fellows and visiting scientists associated with its program. In addition, 43 undergraduates work with the PMIL faculty on research projects.

Wilkes and McGrath attribute much of the success of PMIL to its true interdisciplinary method of conducting research. By combining the science and engineering aspects of polymer research, the PMIL group is able to synthesize, characterize, process, and fabricate new polymers, as well as study their structural properties.

During the PMIL review, keynote speaker Parry Norling, planning director, DuPont, referred to the effectiveness of networking people and technology, similar to the manner in which PMIL operates.

In terms of networking, PMIL also visualizes itself as part of a triad of research centers on the Virginia Tech campus that feature research, education, and technology transfer in materials science and engineering. PMIL works closely with the Center for Adhesives and Sealants Science and the Center for Composite Materials and Structures in their overall efforts to develop unique materials for future generations. The nucleus of these groups also worked together to attract the National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center for High Performance Polymeric Adhesives and Composites to the university.

The participation of "so many Fortune 500 companies in our Affiliates Program reflects very positively on our program," remarked Wilkes. "They received an excellent update on what is happening in our polymer research program."