The Polymer Chemistry Initiative

Polymer Chemistry Initiative at Pittsburg State University is an educational and research program offering to 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 to have increased chances of qualifying for acceptance into complimentary 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 >>

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

Djavan Yairebedian - first polymer chemistry graduate

First Bachelor of Science graduate of the PSU Polymer Chemistry Program

Mr. Djavan Hairabedian, the first BS graduate Polymer Chemistry in the history of PSU with Dr. Dvornic, Professor of Polymer Chemistry and Chair of the Chemistry Department at the Fall Commencement ceremony 2015.

The Distinguished Polymer Lecturer Series

The Distinguished Polymer Lecturer Series are presented about a broad range of industries and applications for polymer chemistry research.
Read about the Lecturers who have presented at Pittsburg State University

  • What are Polymers?
  • Why Polymers?
  • Polymer Chemistry Program at PSU
  • Why Pittsburg State University?
  • The Faculty
  • PSU Facilities
  • Student Degree and Career Field Outcomes

Polymers are materials built of large molecules (often referred to as macromolecules) which are composed of one or more types of building blocks (repeat units) which repeat many times along their structure. Polymer molecules can have very different shapes, such as linear chains (like strings of pearls), branched (like small molecular trees, bushes or tumbleweeds) or crosslinked (like loose or dense networks), sizes and flexibilities, and properties of polymer materials very much depend on them.

Polymers can be natural or synthetic and it is not exaggeration that they represent some of the most important components of our planet, living organisms and their life cycles, as well as human civilization and culture through history. For example, the Earth’s crust is made of rocks that are composed mostly of silicates (such as feldspar and quartz) which are three-dimensional highly crosslinked polymers of silicon and oxygen. In fact, there would be no Earth without these two elements which together make up about 75% of its crust.

The other group, biologically essential polymers include such as cellulosics, lignin, polysaccharides, proteins and nucleic acids, of which the former three 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: the human beings. Our hairs, our nails and connecting tissue are all made up of the so called “structural” proteins, our enzymes which catalyze the most important chemical reactions in our bodies that enable our metabolic cycles and life processes are in fact intercellular proteins, and the most fascinating nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) which encode, transmit and express genetic information and basically decipher who we are and where we come from are polymers of “nucleotides” which are compositions of the so called pyrine or pyrimidine bases, a residue of a sugar, and a simple phosphate group.

And then, there is the third major group of polymers: the man-made, synthetic polymers, the study of which has created, since 1930s, one of the youngest, but at the same time also 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, and utilizing this knowledge in “macromolecular engineering”, to rationally design, synthesize and manufacture the most optimal materials for specific targeted applications.

In the words of famous Italian Nobel laureate Giulio Natta 1903-1979 Italian chemist and Nobel Prize winner(1963, chemistry) Giulio Natta:  A chemist setting out to build a giant molecule is in the same position as an architect designing a building. He/she has a number of building blocks of certain shapes and sizes, and his/hers task is to put them together in a structure to serve a particular purpose….What makes high-polymer chemistry still more exciting …. Is that almost overnight ….. 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

And was Professor Natta ever right? 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” in the development of human civilization, since they 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, and play key roles in almost all 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.

Then, it is not surprising that polymer industries are among the largest employers in chemistry and materials with high tech, high value jobs for science majors.  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 1Polymer 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 highly interdisciplinary nature it also includes the Plastics Engineering Program of the College of Technology and Kansas Polymer Research Institute. It consists of two main components: course work and hands-on research experience in selected areas of polymer science. The core of the course work 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 course work, the students will also have 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 GusPSU 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 Chemistry Department 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. In addition, since there is no other polymer science programs in the broader region, and comparable B.S. programs are very rare even nationally, this PSU program and its graduates can be expected to have a very promising future in either industry or academia in this cutting edge, high tech, contemporary discipline of science and engineering, and relevance for Kansas, regional and national economy.

5 Questions with Dr. Ram Gupta - Just as industry must continuously evolve to meet a changing marketplace, so too must the field of higher education.  Pittsburg State University is doing just this with the creation of its new academic program in Polymer Chemistry.

The Polymer Chemistry program is coordinated by Dr. Petar R. Dvornic, Professor of Polymer Chemistry and Chair of the Chemistry Department, and involves Dr. Ram Gupta, Dr. Santimukul Santra and Dr. Jeanne Norton as core faculty, with Dr. Charles Neef, Mr. Bob Susnik 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.).


Petar DvornicDr. Dvornic

Ram GuptaDr. Gupta

Santimukuil SantraDr. Santra
Research website

Jeanne NortonDr. Norton

Associate Faculty 

Charles Jody NeefDr. Neef

Paul HerringPaul Herring

Heckert-Wells west entranceThe program is housed in state-of-art classrooms and laboratories of 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 and 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, audio-visual and academic computing resources, 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, 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 BS program in Polymer Chemistry at PSU is primarily meant for students finishing high school education and having strong desire towards continuing into sciences and engineering. They should have strong preference for hands-on experimentation and creative thinking, and affinity to design new compositions and materials’ properties. This program will enable such students to work closely with highly experienced faculty on one-on-one bases or in very 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 higher levels of education, such as MS or Ph.D.

The MS 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 and 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 companies making or working with polymers, 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