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Mississippi Polymer Institute to Celebrate 25th Anniversary with Open House

Mon, 10/29/2018 - 07:41am | By: Van Arnold

To celebrate 25 years of providing comprehensive, transformative service to clients throughout South Mississippi, the Mississippi Polymer Institute (MPI) is holding a special anniversary open house that will include guest speakers, tours and an after-hours reception.

The event is set for Nov. 15 from 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. with a business-after-house reception from 5:30 – 7 p.m. at The Accelerator in The University of Southern Mississippi's Innovation and Commercialization Park.

Established in 1993, MPI was originally housed within USM's Department of Polymer Science with the goal of assisting polymer and advanced-material businesses and entrepreneurs in their growth efforts. The Institute has since grown exponentially with capabilities that include, but are not limited to, several aspects of material science: polymer synthesis, composite manufacturing, testing, compounding, extruding, molding, design, CAD modeling, 3D printing, workforce training, and educational outreach.

It was through the initial work of MPI that the University's business incubator – The Accelerator – was developed. Today, there are 17 different business entities occupying space in the facility covering a variety of technically-based product offerings and skills. The sustained growth and success of these companies helps bolster the scientific job base in the immediate area.

Director Dr. Monica Tisack notes that reaching the 25-year milestone illustrates MPI's adaptability and continued relevance to a wide range of businesses.

“It is impressive how MPI has grown over the years and positively contributed to hundreds of clients,” said Tisack, who has served as the institute's director since January, 2017. “It takes continual improvement to maintain relevancy and offer technical services of value to the industry, and that requires a lot of support. Many people have supported our organization over the years and have helped build it to what it has become today.”

Tisack notes that several Mississippi legislators, along with the State Institutions of Higher Learning Board, deserve significant credit for creating the Accelerator and enabling MPI to provide high quality assistance to area businesses for the past 25 years.

MPI's growth and success can be directly attributed to a distinct synergy between academia and commercialization. Tisack stresses that the academic, deep institutional knowledge in advanced materials, economic development, business and other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) departments combine with MPI's commercialization and industrial focus to create a comprehensive package that can be delivered to clients.

“For example, we have ISO (International Standards Organization) accredited labs and testing that provide a level of quality assurance to companies, understand product development and qualification processes, and project management,” said Tisack. “This, along with our advanced material ‘generalists' staff, perfectly complement the University's in-depth knowledge and understanding.”

Bottom line: clients value solutions that take into consideration various aspects of their business that ultimately allow them to be more competitive.

A recent problem-solving opportunity illustrates this point clearly. Tisack points out that MPI investigated a product complaint and identified the root cause for a Mississippi company.

“This sounds simple, but it was actually very complex and ultimately saved the company millions of dollars in business and many associated jobs,” she said.

In the past year, MPI also has been actively involved in other projects like:

  • Providing technical claim investigations and scale-up developments for “DeeGoo”, an advanced hand cleaning product by Yonce & Comans Products
  • Polymer and device development work for McMedRD Inc.'s innovative new medical device
  • Analytical testing for SciGenesis's flame resistant coatings for military uniforms

Additionally, with the expansion at PGT Technologies in Ellisville, MPI has been able to expand its workforce training scope to include high-tech ceramic coating while training the company's new hires as part of its onboarding process.

Tisack says that chief among the initiatives planned in the coming months is to raise the level of face-to-face customer service visits within the state and to begin planning for more scale-up activities. To that end, MPI has added Caitlyn Shirley as its new Tech Service Representative.

“She is now focusing on the scale up of a client's new product as part of her rotational training plan to become familiar with our different internal capabilities so that she can be well versed in how best to assist companies,” said Tisack. “Over the next year she will be entering the field so that we can bring value to more companies and clients.”

To learn more about the Mississippi Polymer Institute, call 601.266.4607 or visit: