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Student Highlights

Degree being sought: Polymer Science and Engineering BS
Institution: University of Southern Mississippi
Research group: Patton Research Group
Hometown: Arlington, TX

Give a brief synopsis of research/work being done:

My research encompasses surface-grafted polymer brushes for the rational design of surfaces exhibiting multifunctional chemistries and tunable morphologies (i.e. microscopic form and organization of polymers) across multiple length scales. Specifically, this work focuses on the use of postpolymerization modification (PPM) processes to engineer surfaces with buckling instabilities, such as wrinkled morphologies. My research is inspired by the observation of buckling instabilities in soft materials that can be exploited to define the shape, morphology, and function of complex systems– as exemplified in the wrinkling of skin or folding of brain tissue. Following nature’s lead, wrinkling of polymer films has emerged as a powerful approach to engineer surfaces that exhibit complex ordered and disordered patterns for advanced applications in stem cell growth, flexible electronics, and cell alignment.

From your current perspective, what do you see as an ideal fit for your skills, goals and career moving forward?

This past summer I participated in the Future Leaders in Advanced Materials (FLAM) internship at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) under the guidance of Dr. Rachel Segalman. My project focused on the complexation of water into conjugated electrolytes (CPEs) and their potential use in biological sensors, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and photovoltaic devices. At UCSB I was able to learn new techniques such as, microscopy and UV-vis spectroscopy that propelled my research and allowed me to analyze the phases of the complexed CPEs. At USM, my dedication to learn new techniques and work with fellow undergraduates and a graduate student, Cassandra Reese, has enabled me to obtain two publications. My research experience as an undergraduate has made me realize that I want to pursue a graduate degree in order to expand my knowledge in polymer science and engineering.

What's an interesting (personal) fact about yourself?

I played soccer for 11 years and was part of the Olympic Development Program.

Why did you choose USM?

My first few years of high school I thought I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon and I originally applied to USM as a nursing major. By the end of my senior year I had a change of heart and decided I was more interested in research. I had an interest in chemistry, but I wanted to do something more interesting that would challenge me and give me the ability to do research as an undergrad. I chose polymer science and engineering at USM because I wanted to intellectually challenge myself and do important research at one of the best polymer science and engineering schools in the country.

What USM-related scholarships did you receive?

Golden Opportunity Scholarship

WISE Travel Scholarship

Awards won

Donald Drapeau Undergraduate Research Prize, Best Work on a Materials and Structure: Design and Synthesis Topic, Third Place (Oral Presentation).

Publications

Guo, W.; Reese, C.M.; Xiong, L.; Logan, P.K.; Thompson, B.J.; Stafford, C.M.; Ievlev, A.V.; Lokitz, B.S.; Ovchinnikova, O.S.; Patton, D.L. Buckling Instabilities in Polymer Brush Surfaces via Postpolymerization Modification, Macromolecules, 2017, 50, 8670-8677. [doi]

Guo, W.; Xiong, L.; Reese, C.M.; Amato, D.V.; Thompson, B.J.; Logan, P.K.; Patton, D.L. Post-Polymerization Modification of Styrene-Maleic Anhydride Copolymer Brushes, Polymer Chemistry, 2017, 8, 6778-6785.

Main USM extracurricular activity – why is this important to you?

I am Vice President of the Polymer Science Association (PSA), which provides me with an opportunity to mentor younger generations and help them navigate their new life away from home and into the polymer department. As one of the few female polymer science and engineering majors, and as the only girl in many of my classes, I feel it is important for me to be a leader and mentor for the next generation of women in STEM.

What are your plans for next year and beyond?

My goal is to apply my knowledge of polymer engineering, chemistry, mathematics, and physics to solve real world problems and produce materials for sophisticated applications in forensics and body armor. After I graduate from USM, I plan on pursuing a Ph.D. in polymer engineering to expand my skill set and broaden my network. After achieving my doctorate, I plan to pursue a career as a research scientist in an industrial or government lab – an environment where I can best apply the tools of polymer science and engineering to significantly impact our society.

While at USM, what other accomplishments/activities are you most proud of? 

I am most proud of placing 3rd at the Undergraduate Symposium in my first oral presentation and the opportunity to present my research at the 255th ACS Meeting in New Orleans. Furthermore, I won a WISE travel scholarship to present at the 257th ACS Meeting in Orlando in April 2019.