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McGrath one of nine to be inducted into Plastics Hall of Fame

By Sally Harris

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 18 - January 30, 1997

James McGrath of Virginia Tech was one of nine scientists, innovators, and industry leaders recently chosen to become members of the Plastics Hall of Fame.

McGrath, who is a university distinguished professor of chemistry and co-director of the Polymer Materials and Interface Laboratory, is also director of the National Science Foundation Science & Technology Center at Virginia Tech. He will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the triennial ceremony for living inductees in June, according to Jerome H. Heckman, president of the Plastics Academy.

"The outstanding contributions that these individuals have made include developments with far-ranging benefits for society," Heckman said. All nine inductees have received major awards from the Society of Plastics Engineers.

After nearly two decades working as an industrial research scientist developing new polymers and processing techniques, McGrath gained a unique perspective on the educational needs of future generations of plastics professionals. He then applied this knowledge in a 20-year second career as a major author and academic leader in polymeric materials, which include rubber, plastics, textiles, and adhesives. Over that span, he has conceived of and conducted innovative courses on polymer chemistry for student, government, industrial, and international audiences.

Before joining Virginia Tech as a professor in 1975, McGrath worked for several producers of plastic raw materials, including Rayonier and Goodyear, as a research scientist involved in polymer synthesis, characterization, and stabilization. While at Union Carbide (1967-1975), he extended his activities into processing technology, including the extrusion of polyethylene pipe and blow molding of polyolefins produced by novel gas-phase processes and the market introduction of new products.

McGrath is the co-author or editor of six books on block copolymers, polymerization technology, organosiloxane copolymers, and polyimides, as well as more than 300 technical papers. He initiated the first experimental, nationally offered short courses in polymer chemistry and provides extra-university education for polymer scientists at major corporations and courses for undergraduate teachers in macromolecular chemistry and engineering.

In 1987, McGrath received the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Plastics Research from the Society of Plastics Engineers.

In addition to fostering the work of more than 100 graduate and postgraduate students, McGrath has been responsible for the administration of millions of dollars worth of research grants from government and industry.