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New Industry-University Partnership to Support Economic Development in Mississippi PDF Print E-mail
Monday, June 29, 2009
Contact Jana Bryant - 601.266.4497   

Governor Haley Barbour and officials from GE Aviation today announced a unique research collaboration with The University of Southern Mississippi for technology and advanced material development in the company's Batesville Composites Operation in Batesville, Miss.

GE's partnership with the Southern Miss School of Polymers and High Performance Materials is focused on the development of advanced materials (composites development processing) for the GEnx engine. The world's only jet engine with composite fan blades, fan platforms and fan case, the GEnx engine will power the Boeing 787 and 747-8 aircraft.

"This exciting partnership between GE Aviation and The University of Southern Mississippi combines GE Aviation's expertise with the talent at USM," Governor Haley Barbour said.  "These researchers are working together to develop the sophisticated processes and composite materials needed to produce next-generation commercial jet engines. Composite components are the way of the future in commercial aviation, and I am proud that the research and development work needed to build that future is happening right here in Mississippi."

The collaboration is supported with a grant of approximately $2.4 million from the Mississippi Development Authority, the state's lead economic development agency. 

"GE's relationship with Mississippi leaders and the state's university system has been outstanding," said David Joyce, president and CEO of GE Aviation, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. "Simply put, we are teaming on unique technologies that ultimately impact future air travel."

The opportunity to be on the leading edge of such industrial developments with global implications reflects the university's focus on research. "Southern Miss has an industry view of research that encourages university and industry linkages. These connections provide meaningful products to our partners while giving our students relevant educational opportunities," said President Martha Saunders. "As a comprehensive research institution, Southern Miss is committed to creating a culture that supports an innovative academic environment while being able to promote economic advancement for our state and region," said Dr. Saunders.

Three Southern Miss graduate students have already completed internships at GE's Global Research Center in New York as part of the university-industry partnership. In all, about 15-20 students and faculty will be involved in the one-year project. Funds from the MDA grant will be used for research infrastructure.

GE Aviation has worked closely with the Mississippi Development Authority to develop partnerships with Mississippi universities to assist with the process and material development of products that will be placed at the Batesville Composites Operation in Batesville, Miss.

GE Aviation celebrated the opening of the Batesville facility, its newest Greenfield facility, in October 2008 and anticipates expanding the workforce to more than 100 people.  The 300,000-square-foot facility produces and assembles advanced composite engine components which are unique to the aviation industry.

The facility is currently in production of its first two GEnx product lines: fan platforms (installed between the engine's front fan blades) and the assembly of the fan stator unit, a large circular structure that encases the front fan. 

"The project utilizes Southern Miss' nationally recognized expertise for the design, synthesis, characterization and formulation of novel, high-performance polymeric products to achieve project goals of developing cutting-edge composites" said Dr. Shelby Thames, distinguished university research professor and principal investigator on the project.

"The concepts, teachings and expertise of the Polymer Science and Engineering faculty drive composites-focused research at Southern Miss. The age of reinforced polymeric materials, or composites, has arrived and accordingly, lightweight, high-performance composites are now used in many industry segments, including aircraft and marine infrastructure applications. "We are delighted to be a member of this team," said Thames.

Other professors involved in the project are Dr. Sarah Morgan, Dr. James Rawlins, Dr. Jeff Wiggins, Dr. Sergei Nazarenko and Dr. Derek Patton.

Key research thrusts for the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials include marine and aerospace composites, sustainable materials, biomaterials and coatings. The program is supported by numerous federal and private funding agencies, including the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation and Boeing. The School is an international academic leader in the design, synthesis, use, test and formulation of novel polymeric products and holds more than 50 patents.

Gov. Haley Barbour was an invited speaker for the announcement of a new partnership between GE Aviation and the Southern Miss School of Polymers and High Performance Material Monday at the university's Hattiesburg campus. During his visit, Barbour spoke with polymer science doctoral students, including, from left, David Kingsley, Chrissy Caroselli and Bobby Cook. The three recently completed internships at GE's Global Research Center in New York as part of the university-industry partnership. (Southern Miss Marketing and Public Relations photo by Steve Rouse)

USM-GE-MDA Media Announcement Video


About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities.  In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world.  Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at

About GE Aviation
GE Aviation, a General Electric Company business unit and world-leading producer of jet engines, employs approximately 38,000 people and operates more than 80 facilities around the world. The company has the largest and fastest-growing installed base of jet engines in commercial aviation and a global services network to support them.

About the Mississippi Development Authority
The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) is the State of Mississippi's lead economic and community development agency. More than 250 employees are engaged in providing services to businesses, communities and workers in the state. While the agency is best known for its efforts to recruit new businesses to Mississippi, the Authority provides services to promote tourism, help communities improve their quality of place, help existing employers identify and meet opportunities and challenges and help workers improve their skills all with the goal of improving the quality of life and economic well-being of Mississippians. For more information, visit MDA's Web site at

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