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USM Polymer Science Alumna Taking Position with Boeing after Graduation

Mon, 12/16/2019 - 03:59pm | By: David Tisdale

Katelyn Cordell earned her doctorate from the USM School of Polymer Science and Engineering Dec. 12. She worked in the School’s Wiggins Research Group, led by her faculty mentor, Dr. Jeffrey Wiggins, right. A recent graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) School of Polymer Science and Engineering is taking what her advisor describes as a “rock star” position with The Boeing Company, the world's leading manufacturer of aerospace products, serving national and international commercial and defense interests.

Katelyn Cordell, a native of Evansville, Indiana, was awarded her doctorate by the School Dec. 12, after studying with Dr. Jeffrey Wiggins, professor of polymer science at USM and leader of its Wiggins Research Group. She credited the School’s multiple research opportunities for her personal and professional growth, including at Boeing’s St. Louis, Missouri site, after she gravitated toward the carbon fiber research in the Wiggins Research Group, focusing on finding the elusive link between polymer chemistry and fiber processing to direct carbon fiber morphology.

“My research goals aligned with our industrial collaborators, with the fruition of being awarded the Boeing Solvay Fellowship,” Cordell said. “This invaluable fellowship gave me multiple opportunities to connect with industrial and academic partners, who challenged my ideas and encouraged me to keep pursuing answers to the ‘tough’ questions in carbon fiber research.”

While at USM, Cordell was also accepted into the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) research traineeship program, which she credits with helping her become an innovative scientist with interdisciplinary skills. The program funded a six-week long internship at Deakin University in Geelong, Australia, where she presented at an international conference and collaborated with Dr. Joselito Razal’s research group there to transform her USM polymer into fiber, and inspired her to learn more about carbon fiber composites after graduate school.

“My experiences at USM have helped shape me into the scientist I am today and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities Dr. Wiggins and collaborators have given me,” she said.

At Boeing, Cordell will work with the next generation composites team to develop new composite materials, and continue learning more about carbon fiber.

“Dr. Cordell has a flawless skill for demanding excellence of everyone around her in a manner that motivates others to do more, and she has certainly made me a more competent research advisor every day,” said Dr. Jeffrey Wiggins, professor of polymer science and leader of the Wiggins Research Group. “Her research contributions are recognized by global leaders in our field, she has been an outstanding ambassador for Southern Miss on the international stage, and made significant contributions to our School and students, and I’m certain she will continue doing so for the broad benefit of society throughout her career.”

For information about the USM School of Polymer Science and Engineering, visit