Students get look at polymer department

Sumrall High School students got a look at how polymers are made and how they can become one of the University of Southern Mississippi scientists who work with polymers during a program on March 2 at the school.

Dr. Joseph R. Lott, Assistant Professor of Polymer Science and Engineering, explained the importance of polymers in everyday life. Students Abagail Williams and Kaden Stevens – an SHS graduate – gave the students a look at the University and the types of studies and careers that involve polymers.

A polymer is a substance that has a molecular structure consisting chiefly or entirely of a large number of similar units bonded together, such as many synthetic organic materials used as plastics and resins. The University of Southern Mississippi has one of the nation’s top polymer science facilities.

Lott said USM is internationally known for polymer science.

“You might have noticed that I am what you might call ‘a Yankee,’” he said. “I was born and raised in New York and growing up, I never thought I would be living in Mississippi and raising my family. But is the polymer science department that brought me here.”

Lott said the university receives a lot of research funding. The University of Southern Mississippi’s research grants totaled $72.9 million for fiscal year 2015.

“If you are going to be in polymer science, you could end up in a variety of careers,” he said. “After you get a scientific degree, you don’t have to end up in science. We have students who are interested in law, patent law. If I come up with a new polymer, I might to have a patent on that. A good background for a patent attorney is a background in science. … If you are interested in science, you could use that as a springboard for a lot of other careers.”

Lott said he was excited to speak to the high school students about polymers and the possibilities that are available today.

“School students these days are very advanced compared to when I was in high school,” he said.