- Before University of Southern Mississippi President Dr. Shelby
Thames' presentation at Biloxi High Wednesday, senior Viet Nguyen
had never considered a career in polymer science.
to the former professor-turned-president talk about the numerous
applications and career opportunities in the emerging field, Nguyen
really know anything about polymer science before today," said
Nguyen, 17, an AP Calculus student at Biloxi High. "It's very
interesting, and Dr. Thames explained it very well. It seems like
everything is made out of polymers."
about 150 math, science and physics students, Dr. Thames used the
opportunity to showcase Southern Miss and its polymer science program,
ranked consistently in the nation's top 10. The lecture was the
first stop on Dr. Thames' tour of three Mississippi high schools.
Up next are stops at Gulfport High School on Friday, Nov. 14, and
Jackson Prep on Monday, Nov. 24. An unconfirmed date is being arranged
with the Mississippi School for Math & Science, tentatively
set for Monday, Nov. 17.
of Southern Miss' polymer science program, Dr. Thames said he relishes
the chance to reach out to students and interest them in science.
know, teaching is the love of my life," Dr. Thames said. "You
can see the excitement of these young people. They're delightful,
bright and aggressive, and they look like fine prospective Southern
the high school's lecture hall, Dr. Thames gave a slide presentation
about polymers, their characteristics and uses, and their benefit
to society. He explained that polymers - which mean literally "many
single units" - are manufactured in laboratories but also exist
in nature in the form of rubber, cellulose, proteins and wax. "Polymer
science is an enticing field because you get to make things that
are useful products. It's not just all theoretical," Dr. Thames
It seems that
you can take the university president out of the classroom, but
you can't take the classroom out of the president. At least that
was the impression of one Biloxi High official who attended the
lecture. "You'd think he still teaches this subject every day,"
said Annette Matherne, director of the Career Center at Biloxi High.
"It's like he's never even left the classroom."
Board President Rick Stewart said having someone with Dr. Thames'
renowned scientific background addressing the school's students
was a great opportunity to interest them in careers in science.
about polymer science helps the students make that connection between
what they're learning in the classroom and how that can translate
into jobs in the field," Stewart said. "I hope it will
convince the best science students that making good grades and studying
hard will open doors to college and beyond."
16, a junior trigonometry student, said she'd previously heard of
the work with polymers being done at Southern Miss. "My dentist
told me her sister was studying polymers. It sounds exciting,"
At the end
of the lecture, Dr. Thames was presented with a gift bag on behalf
of the Biloxi High faculty and student body. Pulling several of
the items from the bag, Dr. Thames furthered the point of his lecture,
displaying a ceramic cup, a cellulose bag, a plastic coffee mug
- all made from the same thing. "Who knows what all these are
made of? Polymers," he told the audience, flashing a smile.