July 30, 2014  

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Otaigbe Earns Fulbright-Tocqueville Distinguished Chair

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Dr. Joshua Otaigbe

Dr. Joshua Otaigbe, a professor in The University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Polymers and High Performance Materials, has been awarded the Fulbright-Tocqueville Distinguished Chair in France for the fall 2013 semester.

Otaigbe will hold the Distinguished Chair in Polymer Materials Science and Engineering at University of Lyon, the largest science and engineering university in France. As chair, Otaigbe will lecture in polymer science, materials engineering and rheology at the masters and doctoral levels at French universities, and engage in cutting-edge research involving the U.S. and France with French counterparts.

A presidentially-appointed 12-member board selects faculty for the chairs, which are reserved for “eminent scholars with substantial experience and publications in their respective fields.” Otaigbe’s appointment is part of a plan for a Materials World Network that he has proposed to the National Science Foundation.

“One major advantage of the Fulbright-Tocqueville award experience is that it allows ongoing collaborations and student exchanges in the host country,” said Otaigbe. “There is much we can learn from and teach each other in this increasingly global economy.”

The Franco-American Commission for Education Exchange, in partnership with the U.S. State Department and French Ministry of Higher Education and Research, created the chair award to commemorate the centennial of Sen. J. William Fulbright’s birth and the bicentennial of Alexis de Tocqueville’s birth.

“Scientists today must have a global outlook if they are to collaborate and address some of the very large problems that must be solved to provide a better understanding of our world and our universe, and then to apply that understanding to the benefit of humanity,” said Dr. Robert Lochhead, director of the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials. “Dr. Otaigbe’s Fulbright award is a significant step toward the realization of the global cooperation that will benefit everyone in the long run.”

Otaigbe earned his doctorate from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in England. He has had a circuitous career that spans three continents. Otaigbe joined Southern Miss in 2002 as a professor of polymer engineering and science, following a successful career at Iowa State University where he was a tenured professor of chemical engineering and of materials science and engineering, and leader of the Polymers and Composite Research Group.

Before joining Iowa State, he worked as a project leader for Corning Inc. in New York in the Corporate Research, Development and Engineering Division. Earlier, he held academic positions at the University of Alberta, Canada and University of Benin in Nigeria.

Otaigbe has been involved in most areas of materials science and engineering, including research in the areas of polymer engineering and materials science. His research blends chemical engineering sciences with materials structure and property principles to understand and improve processes for advanced materials. He holds seven patents and has published more than 110 scientific papers on these and related topics, and is also actively involved in university-industry partnerships to solve industrially-relevant problems.

Alongside his research, Otaigbe has been active in promoting the teaching of materials science and engineering as the study of all classes of materials as a whole, rather than their specific chemical, physical and engineering aspect. He is also committed to empowering young engineers to develop the discipline to continue learning, and encourage creative thought outside their expertise.

Brady Hall, a junior polymer science major from Brookhaven, Miss. works in Otaigbe’s lab conducting research using polyamides and phosphate glass composites. “I love working with Dr. Otaigbe,” Hall said. “He’s always supportive of his students’ ideas and is forthcoming with suggestions about how we can improve upon whatever it is we are doing.”