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Federal Funding for Chemical R&D Puts Southern Miss in Top 50 Nationwide

Date    11-14-05
Contact Christopher Mapp (601) 266-4497


HATTIESBURG – The University of Southern Mississippi ranked in the top 50 schools in the country in 2003 for federally funded chemical research and development as noted in the Oct. 31 edition of Chemical and Engineering News.

The chemical sciences at Southern Miss, comprised of chemistry, biochemistry and polymer science, were ranked 49th. Southern Miss was the only state institution from Mississippi making the magazine’s top 50 schools in that category.

Generating $5.6 million in federal funding in 2003, Southern Miss posted a 22.6 percent increase from the previous year. Southern Miss ranked ahead of Arizona State University, which brought in $5.5 million, and one spot behind the University of California-Santa Barbara, which secured $5.7 million in 2003.

“This achievement emphasizes that Southern Miss is at the cutting edge of science,” said Dr. Robert Lochhead, chair of the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials at Southern Miss. “It is a manifestation of the hard work, dedication and sheer brilliance of our faculty members, and it bodes well for the future of our students and for Mississippi’s economy.”

Figures for 2003 were the latest available from the National Science Foundation, the source of the magazine’s rankings.

Funding for research and development in the chemical sciences comes from various sources like private industry and contracts and grants, said Dr. Robert Bateman, chair of the Southern Miss Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. But Bateman said recognition by the federal government means the research proposal has been through rigorous peer review. “It’s a reflection of the faculty’s ability to compete for funding,” Bateman said.

A wide range of research is underway at Southern Miss in the chemical sciences, all of which promise important benefits to society and the national, state and local economies.

* Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, polymer science professor Dr. Charles McCormick and his team of researchers are creating “smart polymers” that can maximize the production of oil wells.
* Polymer science professor Dr. Sergei Nazarenko is developing new technology for soldiers that would allow sweat to evaporate from their uniforms in hot conditions but still protect them from chemical warfare agents.
* Working on a large project funded by the U.S. Navy is a group of researchers including Dr. Shelby Thames, Dr. Robert Lochhead, Dr. Lon Mathias, Dr. Ken Mauritz, Dr. Sergei Nazarenko, Dr. James Rawlins, Dr. Robson Storey and Dr. Douglas Wicks. The aim of the project is to design safe, biodegradable materials that can take the place of plastics, which must be stored on sea vessels until they can be shipped to a landfill. With new materials that could be safely disposed in the sea, the Navy could eliminate the need for storing and transporting plastic waste aboard ships.
* Dr. Joshua Otaigbe is collaborating with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the former employer of Albert Einstein, to study “nano-materials.” These inorganic-organic hybrid materials can be designed to be better and stronger than the plastics used today.
* Dr. Sarah Morgan is helping a Bay St. Louis-based company called Mississippi Polymer Technologies create new materials that can be used as armor plating.
* Dr. Shelby Thames, president of Southern Miss and a polymer science researcher, is creating new products from alternative crops. “Dr. Thames takes pride in developing materials that are better for our health and less polluting to our environments. This includes American Pride Paint, which has no volatile organic compounds,” Lochhead said.
* Also at Southern Miss, the National Science Foundation has funded the INSPIRE conference and the Research Experience for Undergraduates. “These are two ways in which young people can experience the wonders of science and the excitement of research,” Lochhead said.

“Our university takes great pride in the top 50 national ranking for Chemical Federal Research achieved by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials,” said Dr. Rex Gandy, dean of the College of Science and Technology. “This prestigious ranking is indicative of the high quality faculty, staff and students at Southern Miss.”

The University of California at San Francisco topped the list with $22.7 million, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) with $17.5 million and Harvard with $17.4 million

About The University of Southern Mississippi

The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss, with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at

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Last updated: 12/23/05

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