The Polymer Chemistry Initiative

The Polymer Chemistry Initiative at Pittsburg State University is an educational and research program offering qualifying students Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Polymer Chemistry. Graduates will possess skills necessary to assume leadership positions in polymer-related industries, as well as have increased chances of qualifying for acceptance into complementary Ph.D. programs in leading institutions and universities, nationally and abroad. View the Polymer Chemistry brochure.

PSU launches major new polymer chemistry initiative

“With polymers, you can make this table,” Petar Dvornic said, slapping the hard surface for emphasis. “You can make the window. You can make the walls. Polymers taken away from our daily lives would be a catastrophe. Buildings would fall. There would be no cars or airplanes, no clothing, no computers, no food industry..."   Full Story >>

New polymer science degrees offer better opportunities for students

A new degree program at Pittsburg State University is the only one offered in the region. The Kansas legislature and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback are supporting the initiative that has the potential to make PSU a center for excellence in polymer science education, research and economic development.  Full story >>

New polymer program gets strength from subparts

When Pittsburg State University combined elements from the chemistry department at the College of Arts and Sciences, the plastics engineering technology program in the College of Technology and the Kansas Polymer Research Center, then added cutting-edge researchers as faculty, the resulting new degree programs for polymer chemistry essentially took on a synergic equation similar to those of the polymers students soon will study.  Full story >>

Djavan Yairebedian - first polymer chemistry graduate

First Bachelor of Science Graduate of the PSU Polymer Chemistry Program

Mr. Djavan Hairabedian (right) received the first Bachelor of Science Degree with a Major in Polymer Chemistry in the history of PSU. Hairabedian is shown with Dr. Dvornic (left), Professor of Polymer Chemistry, at the Fall 2015 Commencement Ceremony.

The Distinguished Polymer Lecturer Series

The Distinguished Polymer Lecturer Series is presented about a broad range of industries and applications for polymer chemistry research.
Past Distinguished Polymer Lecturers

  • What are Polymers?
  • Why Polymers?
  • PSU Polymer Chemistry Program
  • Why Pittsburg State University?
  • Faculty
  • PSU Facilities
  • Degree & Career Field Outcomes

Polymers are materials built of large molecules which are composed of one or more types of building blocks which repeat many times along their structure. Polymer molecules can have very different shapes. They can be in a chain, like a string of pearls. They can be branched like trees, bushes, or tumbleweeds. They can be cross-linked in various ways.

Polymers can be natural or synthetic, and it is not exaggeration that they represent some of the most important components of our planet. For example, the Earth’s crust is made of rocks that are composed mostly of silicates which are three-dimensional highly cross-linked polymers of silicon and oxygen

Another group, biologically essential polymers include items such as cellulosic, lignin, polysaccharides, proteins and nucleic acids. The first three of these are fundamental for plants and their growth, while the last three enable life processes and transfer of hereditary and evolutionary information in animals and humans.

Probably the best, and certainly the most sophisticated examples of what polymers can create stare right back at us when we look into mirrors, human beings. The hair, nails, and connecting tissue of animals like ourselves are all made up of structural proteins, which are polymers. The enzymes that catalyze the most important chemical reactions in our bodies that enable our metabolic cycles and life processes are such proteins. DNA and RNA, which encode, transmit, and express genetic information and decipher who we are and where we come from, are polymers of nucleotides.

There is the third major group of polymers, the man-made, synthetic polymers. The study of which has created one of the fastest growing scientific disciplines of our times, polymer science. Its role is to understand fundamental relationships between polymer structures and their properties.

The Italian Nobel laureate Giulio Natta, Italian chemist and Nobel Prize winner, said:  “A chemist setting out to build a giant molecule is in the same position as an architect designing a building. [From this] there have come discoveries of new ways to put the building blocks together – discoveries which promise a great harvest of new materials that have never existed on the Earth.”

Santimukuil Santra KPRC Research

It is already quite clear that the second half of the 20th century and also the foreseeable future can rightfully be named the “Age of Polymers.” Polymers have clearly marked our civilization, our technology, our culture, and our everyday lives. Synthetic polymers come in many different types: including plastics and rubbers; oils, paints, fibers and coatings; films, sheets, membranes and various 3D objects. Polymers play key roles in numerous fields of human activities: from biomedical, agricultural, and veterinary uses to space and ocean exploration; from construction to clothing; from food and water production to energy harvesting and transportation; from arts and entertainment to informatics; from transportation to sports and recreation; from defense to environmental protection.

Because of this, it is not surprising that polymer industries are among the largest employers in chemistry and materials, and that there are high tech, high value jobs for science majors available in the field. In fact, the American Chemical Society’s Division of Polymer Chemistry projects that at least 50% of all chemists will at some point in their careers work with polymers or use some knowledge obtained from polymer science.

Gupta and Students 1

Polymer Chemistry at PSU offers Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees. It is housed within the Department of Chemistry of the College of Arts and Sciences, but because of its interdisciplinary nature it also connects with the Plastics Engineering Program in the College of Technology and Kansas Polymer Research Institute at the Tyler Research Center. It consists of two main components: coursework and hands-on research experience in selected areas of polymer science.

The core of the coursework focuses on three main pillars of polymer science: Polymer Chemistry, Polymer Physical Chemistry and Properties, and Polymer Rheology and Processing. In addition, the students also get to select—in consultation with their faculty advisors—elective courses from some of the cutting edge areas of contemporary polymer science in which PSU faculty perform active research: Biopolymers and Polymers for Biomedical Applications, Nanotechnology, Polymers for Electrical and Electronic Applications, Inorganic Polymers, such as Silicon-Containing Polymers, Polymers from Renewable Resources, Polymers for Energy Production, Polymers for Water Protection and Purification, Polymer Manufacturing and Processing, Architecturally Unusual Polymers, Polyurethanes and Polymers from Natural Resources.

Complementary to coursework, the students will also have the unique opportunity to perform individual research projects and assignments under the guidance of selected PSU faculty in any of these areas. Generally, this hands-on research will consist of a thesis, selected research project, research colloquium, and/or preparation and defense of a research proposal.

Chemistry Gus

PSU is uniquely situated to offer this new degree program in polymer chemistry because it can synergistically combine intellectual power and material resources of its three main units: the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Plastics Engineering Technology Program in the College of Technology, and the Kansas Polymer Research Center, a professional research institution.

Since there are no other polymer science programs in the broader region, the PSU program and its graduates can be expected to have a very promising future in either industry or academia.

The Polymer Chemistry program is coordinated by Dr. Petar R. Dvornic, Professor of Polymer Chemistry, and involves Dr. Ram Gupta, Dr. Santimukul Santra and Dr. Jeanne Norton as core faculty, with Dr. Charles Neef and Mr. Paul Herring offering elective courses as support faculty. Various other PSU faculty will also provide foundational coursework as needed, including faculty from departments of physics and biology. All core faculty have terminal degrees and significant academic accomplishments (external funding, industry experience, publications, professional presentations, technical reports, etc.).

Polymer Science Core Faculty Images

Petar DvornicDr. Dvornic

Ram GuptaDr. Gupta

Santimukuil SantraDr. Santra
Research website

Jeanne NortonDr. Norton

Associate Faculty 

Polymer Science Associate Faculty Images

Charles Jody NeefDr. Neef

P. Herring
Paul Herring

Heckert-Wells west entrance

The program is housed in state-of-art classrooms and laboratories in the Department of Chemistry, the Plastics Engineering Technology program, and Kansas Polymer Research Center.

The classrooms are equipped with all necessary visual and demonstration aids for successful lecturing while wet-labs are equipped with bench and hood space, vacuum and gas lines, refrigeration, ovens, heating and steering units, safety equipment, glassware and hardware necessary for synthetic and characterization work.

Specialized equipment and instrumentation available to students for research work includes:  

FT-IR, NMR,  UV-Vis and Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy, Flourometer, Polarimeter, High-Pressure Liquid Chromatography, Gel-Permeation Chromatography, Powder X-Ray Diffraction, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Differential Scanning Calorimetry, Dynamic Mechanical Analysis, Thermomechanical Analysis, Thermogravimetric Analysis, Dielectric Thermal Analysis, Ultra Pyconmeter, Viscometer/Rheometer, Brookfield Viscometer, Melt Index Tester, Semiconducting Characterization System, Potentiostat for Polymerization Electrospinning of Nanofibers, Twin Screw and Single Screw Extruders, Thermoformer, Rotational, Injection and Blow Molders, Drop Impact Tester, Arc Trac Tester, Drop Dart Tester, Charpy Impact Tester, Instron Universal Testing Machine, Color Measuring Equipment, Moisture Analyzer, Accelerated Weathering Tester, as well as various granulators, mills, driers, feeders, rollers, presses, etc.

Support Facilities:

Academic services at PSU, including advising, audiovisual and academic computing resources, and initiatives offered through the Student Success Center (such as The Writing Center) support this program. Access to financial support for faculty and student travel and internal grant and scholarship funding opportunities are also available. An outstanding support for both hardware and software technology needs, as well as information and communication resources are also available. Library and information material, including electronic subscriptions to the most relevant journals and databases in polymer science, are available through Axe Library.

Santra and Students 1The Bachelor of Science Degree program in Polymer Chemistry at PSU is primarily meant for students finishing high school and wanting to pursue sciences and engineering. Students should have strong preference for hands-on experimentation and creative thinking and an affinity to design new compositions and materials’ properties. This program will enable students to work closely with highly experienced faculty on an individual basis or in small groups and will prepare them for high skill, high creativity jobs in either industry or research organizations. It will also prepare them for successful applications to graduate degres, such as master's or doctorate degrees.

The Master of Science Degree program in Polymer Chemistry at PSU is primarily meant as a continuation of the PSU undergraduate Polymer Chemistry program, but it is also open for those who graduate from other universities in Kansas, the United States, and around the world with degrees in sciences, including chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, and/or materials technologies. Students entering this program and career field should prepare themselves with a strong record and coursework in science and/or engineering and should have either career interests in polymer-related companies or a desire to pursue the highest academic degrees at institutions offering a doctorate in polymer science and engineering in the U.S. or abroad.

Department of Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences

Plastics Engineering Technology Program, Engineering Technology Department, College of Technology

Kansas Polymer Research Center (KPRC), Pittsburg State University

The Magic of Nano-Medicine - Santimukul Santra, Ph.D.

PSU makes Southeast Kansas one of the only areas in the nation where polymer science can be studied at an undergraduate level