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Released July 6, 2004


HATTIESBURG -- Two students studying polymer science at The University of Southern Mississippi are spending their summers researching in Japanese and Australian laboratories.

Kirt Page and Peyton Hopson departed late last month for an eight-week sojourn to East Asia and the Pacific Rim as part of a three-year, $156,000 program funded by the National Science Foundation. The program is designed to prepare more engineers and scientists from the United States to work on international research projects.

Page and Hopson, who are graduate students under the direction of Dr. Robert Moore, are in Osaka, Japan, and Melbourne, Australia, respectively.

Hopson is currently studying at Melbourne's Monash University and Page is at Osaka University. Also hosting students this summer as part of the NSF program is Taiwan.

"Kirt and Peyton are truly outstanding scientists and doctoral students," Moore said. "They have both taken the initiative to establish international collaborations with leading scientists in their fields of study. Furthermore, their applications for funding from the National Science Foundation were awarded from among a very competitive field of students at universities all over the nation."

Moore said he was very proud to have two of his students recognized by the national and international community. "I am pleased that they have been given this opportunity to represent our university overseas."

While in Japan and Australia, Page and Hopson will work on projects with mentors and present the results of those projects at an international meeting this summer. The program allows students to study in a wide spectrum of scientific fields, including medicine, computers, chemistry and engineering.

The project builds on the NSF's previous efforts to foster collaboration between U.S. and international researchers. "We are trying to address the imbalance in the high number of students coming to the United States, especially in the sciences, compared to the number of American researchers going overseas," said William Chang, program manager at NSF. "In today's global marketplace, you want members of your society to understand what it's like to live and do work in a much more global environment. We hope these U.S. students will serve as cyber-ambassadors between (the United States) and East Asia."

To receive the extremely competitive grant, which pays for travel and living expenses, Page had to write a three-page proposal outlining his research project: "Dielectric and viscoelastic studies of the chain dynamics of type-A polymers adsorbed onto nanoparticles." Publications, grade-point average and references were also part of the selection process.

"Each student (who applied) had to contact a host researcher and develop a project with that person that could be implemented and achieved in eight weeks," said Page.

Page, who knows only "a little Japanese," will work with Dr. Keiichiro Adachi at Osaka University. "His English is excellent, so that will make things a little easier," said Page, who is making his first trip to Japan.

Before heading to Osaka, Page will spend a week in Tokyo, where he'll take language and cultural courses required by the program. "It's a good experience to see what Japanese home life is like," he said.

While in Japan, Page, a native of Indiana, is going to take some extra time to see the sights and soak up the culture. When his eight-week stay is over, Page plans to spend an extra three weeks backpacking across the countryside and staying in hostels. He also intends to visit Mount Koya-San, the home of more than 100 Buddhist temples.

"I'm going to stay with some Buddhist monks who still make the same dishes they've been preparing for 500 years," Page said.


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July 20, 2004 3:57 PM