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
"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
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
"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,
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
"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
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)