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USM Polymer Professor Receives Prestigious Award from 3M Corporation

Mon, 08/15/2022 - 09:42am | By: Van Arnold

Dr. Xiaodan GuDr. Xiaodan Gu, Assistant Professor in the School of Polymer Science and Engineering at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) has earned a $45,000 Nontenured Faculty Award by the 3M Corporation to further his research efforts.

The award recognizes outstanding new faculty for their research, experience, and academic leadership. Each year, approximately 15 new awards are presented by 3M.

“The 3M Nontenured Faculty Award is widely recognized as a prestigious honor among all the junior faculty in polymer, materials, and chemical engineering. Receiving this award for our research group means a lot to our team,” Gu said.

“It is a great opportunity for our team to invest in a new idea in polymeric membrane to make separation of pollutant and water more efficiently,” he continued. “To bring this recognition back to Mississippi is a great testimony to the quality of the research and education USM now has."

The 3M Nontenured Faculty Award was created more than 25 years ago by 3M’s Technical Community in partnership with 3Mgives’s Giving Program to invest in individuals who will lead university teaching and research programs in the future. The intent is to provide unrestricted financial support to help promising faculty receive tenure and contribute to their academic field.

Dr. Gu's research focuses on soft electronic devices for health and energy applications as well as new membrane materials for efficient separation for clean water and carbon capture. His team combines data science, advanced morphological characterization tools, chemical synthesis, and processing, to improve the performance of next-generation soft electronics and membranes.

“It’s really exciting to partner with experts from the industrial sector at 3M to invest in high risk but high rewarding novel ideas for polymer membrane,” said Gu.

The group’s work will focus on studying the morphology of the new type of membrane that can be scalably made through a simple mechanical stretch to create nanoscopic crazes. Gu and his team could use this new technique to address issue retailed to cleaning up pollutants in wastewater, separating oil and water, supporting dairy production, and capturing carbon from atmospheres. 

“Membrane technology may not be visible to any person through our daily life, but it is a 25-billion-dollar business sector. It is widely used in water purification, diary processing, low-temperature striation, biomedical artificial organs, gas separation, and battery and fuel cells,” said Gu.