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McGrath wins chemistry award

By Judy Riffle

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 12 - November 14, 1996

James E. McGrath, director of the National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center for High Performance Polymeric Adhesives and Composites at Virginia Tech and university distinguished professor in the chemistry department, will receive the Herman Mark Award in Polymer Chemistry at the biennial meeting of the Division of Polymer Chemistry, November 24-27.

The award, sponsored by the Dow Chemical Company Foundation and presented by the American Chemical Society Division of Polymer Chemistry, recognizes outstanding research and leadership in polymer science.

McGrath worked in cellulose fiber and film research at ITT Rayonier, then conducted research on synthetic rubbers for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. while earning a master's degree in chemistry and a doctorate in polymer science from the University of Akron. He joined Union Carbide Corp. and became a research scientist/group leader in 1974. Much of his work concerned block copolymer synthesis and characterization. He is co-author of Block Copolymers: Overview and Critical Survey (1977), which remains a major resource in this field.

McGrath joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 1975, was promoted to full professor in 1979, and was awarded the Ethyl Chair in 1986. The National Science Foundation awarded Virginia Tech a Science and Technology Center for High Performance Polymeric Adhesives and Composites with McGrath as its director in 1989. In 1993, he was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Society of Plastic Engineers' Thermoplastics and Foam Division and the University's Alumni Award for Research Excellence.

McGrath was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1994. He serves on numerous advisory boards in industry and government, including the National Materials Advisory Board of the National Research Council. He is co-author of more than 450 scientific publications and has directed the Ph.D. and master's degrees of more than 80 students. In 1996, he was named a university distinguished professor, the university's highest honor.

McGrath's recent research is directed toward the synthesis and characterization of high-performance matrix polymers and structural adhesives, new composite matrix polymers for possible use in aerospace such as the proposed high-speed civil transport, new high-temperature polymer dielectrics for computer development, and fire-resistant polymers.