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Released July 28, 2005


Hattiesburg- Students from The University of Southern Mississippi recently traveled to China to gain firsthand knowledge of the emerging role of science, technology and business in the world's most populous nation.

For three weeks in May, more than a dozen polymer science graduate students and faculty from Southern Miss joined their chemistry counterparts from the University of Mississippi for the Far East excursion.

Participating in the Entrepreneurship at the Interface of Medicinal and Polymer Science (EMPS) International Immersion program, students and faculty visited Tongji University in Shanghai and Tsinghua and Peking Universities in Beijing. There they engaged in joint scientific poster sessions and received formal lectures by Tongji and Southern Miss faculty on the current climate in China for American scientific entrepreneurs and businesses. They also visited business, manufacturing and research and development facilities for multinational corporations and Chinese-based startup companies.

"China is the largest and fastest growing market in the world," said USM polymer science professor Dr. Doug Wicks. "In the future, they will be our main challenger from an economic and political standpoint. This trip really allowed the students to grasp the concept of China as a competitor, partner and customer."

While in China, students explored foreign industrial internship opportunities with companies doing business there, like Bayer, General Electric and Rohm and Haas in Shanghai.

Stacy Trey, a Southern Miss grad student from Hattiesburg, said she is considering a three-month internship at Bayer.

"It was really interesting to see the different approaches to establishing a business in China," Trey said.

During the students' free time, cultural exchanges between East and West were frequent and fun. Wicks said: "They got lots of questions from the Chinese students, like 'What's life like in America?' Despite their language and cultural differences, what they found was that Chinese students have many of the same concerns as they do, like finding stable jobs and having a happy, successful life."

Wicks said those graduate students in polymer science who do not become professors or go into corporate research usually go to work for businesses that have an international presence. "This trip gave our students a taste of what to expect when they get out of graduate school," he said.

Micah Black of Picayune was one of a few students who stayed behind after the others left so he could visit Hong Kong and Tokyo.

"It was interesting to note the difference between each of these cities. I also really enjoyed meeting and interacting with the materials science students from the two universities we visited in Shanghai and Beijing. They were very nice and were able to answer many of our questions (about Chinese life). I really appreciate the opportunity that was given to me by the National Science Foundation and by Dr. Doug Wicks and Dr. Lon Mathias," said Black, a fourth-year graduate student.

Southern Miss students participating were Micah Black of Picayune (Thames-Rawlins Research Group); Ericka Johnson of Columbus, Ga. (Thames-Rawlins Research Group); Lisa Kemp of Picayune (Storey Research Group); Jean-Francois Morizur of France (Mathias Research Group); Misty Rowe of Shirley, Ind.(Boyes Research Group); Stacy Trey (Wicks Research Group); and Paul Wheeler (Mathias Research Group).

Southern Miss faculty participating were Judy Giordan, Dr. Lon Mathias, Dr. Joshua Otaigbe, and Dr. Doug Wicks.

The USM/UM EMPS International Immersion project is part of the National Science Foundation - Integrative Graduate Experience in Research and Training (IGERT) grant. The program pairs the Southern Miss School of Polymers and High Performance Materials with the UM School of Pharmacy in an interdisciplinary effort to combine education in medicinal chemistry and polymer sciences with entrepreneurial and business training.

For more information about the Southern Miss School of Polymers and High Performance Materials, contact (601) 266-4868.



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August 4, 2005 4:18 PM