September 2, 2014  

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FROM ONE GIANT POLYMER TO ANOTHER

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Give Derek Patton credit, he tried to provide me a layman’s explanation of polymers.

Perhaps you’ve heard or read by now that Patton, an assistant professor in the Department of Polymers and High Performance Materials, recently won a prestigious CAREER grant bestowed by the National Science Foundation. These awards are tougher to capture than lightning in a test tube. Patton’s grant is $500,000 to be spread out over five years.

You know, I fancy myself as “intelligent” as the next academic type but these science guys often speak in supernatural tongues. I was keeping up pretty well with Derek until he suddenly jumped from describing basic polymers to “monomers.” When he pointed out that my body was technically a giant polymer I felt as lost as Gomer Pyle at a Mensa meeting.

My discussion with Dr. Patton served as a refreshing reminder of the brilliant minds we have at work on our campus. By and large the faculty here are enthusiastic, innovative, critical thinkers who dearly love the world of higher education.

Derek Patton is an Alabama native who told me he would not want to be teaching anywhere else right now. Let’s hope he decides to stick around for a long, long time.

In the meantime, I’ll try to brush up on my polymers.