The year 2002 was one of distinction for The University of Southern
Mississippi President Dr. Shelby Thames.
Not only did
the pioneering polymer researcher assume the role as the university's
eighth president in May, but the former distinguished research professor
oversaw the commercialization of American Pride Paint, an environmentally
friendly coating used in the reconstruction of the Pentagon, and
led multiple research projects meeting the needs of both industries
can add another distinction to last year's list.
the gap between academia and industry and his work in research activities
in the area of paint and coatings, Thames has been recognized as
the 2002 R&D Person of the Year by Modern Paint and Coatings
exceedingly humbled by this most significant honor," Thames
told Modern Paint and Coatings in an article this spring featuring
the founder of Southern Miss's internationally recognized polymer
science program. "To love polymer research as I do and to be
chosen for such a significant award is beyond my wildest expectations."
article detailed Thames' work with American Pride Paint, developed
from an agricultural product by university researchers in Southern
Miss's School of Polymers and High Performance Materials. The Pentagon
used about 20,000 gallons of American Pride to paint about one-fifth
of its interior, including the wing damaged in the Sept. 11, 2001
oil, researchers constructed a chemical building block called a
monomer that was built into the chemical base of the paint. That
monomer - called a "castor oil acrylated monomer" - takes
the place of a solvent in the formulation of the paint. In turn,
that dramatically reduces the amount of toxic pollutants given off
by water-based paint into the atmosphere.
conventional paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which
pollute the air and give fresh paints their unpleasant odor. Although
the paint industry has been called upon to reduce VOCs, it has not
had the means to do so until now, Thames said.
The new technology
developed at Southern Miss will remove VOCs from the paint and cut
the level of pollutants from about 200-400 grams per liter of paint
to as low as three grams.
to transform research into economic development has drawn praise
from his colleagues as well as industry analysts.
Thames is that rare individual in academia with the vision to see
beyond his research laboratory to the needs of the marketplace,"
said Dr. R.D. Ellender, associate dean for research in the College
of Science and Technology and a professor of microbiology at Southern
ability to blend complex research with industrial need and economic
reality has been a tremendous benefit, both to the university and
to the state of Mississippi."
Modern Paint and Coatings that American Pride was born out of his
desire to discover a technology that would allow the production
of high-performance, environmentally friendly and cost-effective
particularly, my interest in utilizing agricultural crops (renewable
sources) as a complement to petroleum-derived products was also
a driving force in this work," he said.
the Thames Research Group, Thames is probably best known in industry
circles as the father of Southern Miss's polymer science program,
which he started in 1970 when he became the only faculty member
in the department overseeing 10 graduate students. In 1991, a new
polymer science research center was completed, and named in his
honor five years later. Known as the Shelby Freeland Thames Polymer
Science Research Center, it houses the Department of Polymer Science
and Mississippi Polymer Institute.
The focus of
the Thames Research Group is to meet industrial and consumer needs
through basic research, fused with product development, or products
designed to perform and to be economically viable.