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McGrath wins chemistry award

By Sally Harris

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 31 - May 9, 1996

James McGrath, the Ethyl professor of chemistry at Virginia Tech, has won the Herman F. Mark Award in Polymer Chemistry from the American Chemical Society.

The society gives the award in even-numbered years to "recognize outstanding research and leadership in polymer science."

McGrath has been co-director of the Polymer Materials and Interface Lab (PMIL) at Virginia Tech since 1978 and director of the National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center on High Performance Polymeric Adhesives and Composites since 1989. His colleagues consider him to be "a world-class polymer chemist."

McGrath holds more than 30 patents and has written six books, 50 book chapters, and more than 250 articles in scientific journals. He received the university's Alumni Award for Research Excellence in 1993.

McGrath came to Virginia Tech in 1975 from Union Carbide Corp., where he was a research scientist and group leader. By 1979, he was a full professor, and in 1986 he received the Ethyl Chaired Professorship in chemistry.

His research has been directed toward the synthesis and characterization of high-performance matrix polymers and structural adhesives, new composite matrix and adhesive polymers for possible use in aerospace, new high-temperature polymer dielectrics for computer development, and fire-resistant polymers.

Since becoming director of the NSF center, McGrath's research has especially focused on structural adhesives and new composite matrix polymers-strong, light-weight materials for aerospace and the high-speed civil-transport airplane, for example.

McGrath has taught everything from general chemistry and organic chemistry for undergraduates to advanced graduate courses. He developed an advanced undergraduate organic-polymer chemistry course for chemistry and chemical-engineering students, and a graduate-level chemistry course focusing on modern developments.

He also conducts short courses for industry, the American Chemical Society, and government, including a course for teachers at four-year colleges on how to teach macromolecular chemistry and engineering, and the Summer Undergraduate Research Program at Virginia Tech for undergraduate students from across the nation.

The Herman Mark Award will be presented at the Biennial Conference of the Division of Polymer Chemistry of the American Chemical Society November 24-27.