$2.39 million grant aimed at creating regional opportunities 

  Wednesday, September 23, 2020 3:30 PM
  Milestones, Science and Technology, News

Pittsburg, KS


A three-year, $2.39 million grant awarded to the Kansas Polymer Research Center at Pittsburg State University is aimed at developing new technologies that would diversify the regional workforcesupport business relocations and start-ups, and result in new career opportunities. 

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., was an advocate for the grant award.  

“This federal grant will enable the formation of the National Institute for Materials Advancement at Pittsburg State University, allowing for the development of sustainable plastics processing capabilities and innovative uses of polymeric materials,” Moran said. “I am pleased to have played a role in helping secure this grant that will benefit the university, the Pittsburg community, and Southeast Kansas.”  

Awarded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, funds will be used to launch and commission the new National Institute for Materials Advancement, or NIMA, at the Tyler Research Center, which houses the KPRC. The center will serve as the foundation and launchpad for the new institute.   

The KPRC is unique: It combines internationally recognized scientists from industry with academic laboratory resources in a state-of-the-art research facility.  

Its focus: polymer research and development based on renewable resources, with a strong core competence in polyurethanes and electroactive materials. KPRC scientists work with industrial partners, state and federal agencies, and producer associations on developing and commercializing intellectual property. 

Also unique are the university’s academic degree programs whose students work alongside those scientists: PSU boasts one of the first Plastics Engineering Technology programs in the nation, now 50 years old, and a growing Polymer Chemistry program unlike anything within hundreds of miles. 

According to KPRC Executive Director Tim Dawseysome funds from the grant award will be directed at adding key personnel that will help advance the current mission in materials researchFunds also will support the center’s expanding technology transfer efforts to provide a positive impact to the regional economy.   

By moving new technologies into the marketplace, and by expanding our plastics/polymers skilled workforce, we expect to attract, and build, new technology-based manufacturing businesses throughout the region,” Dawsey said. “The ultimate goal is diversifying the economy of the Four State area with new, higher paying job opportunities.  

Regional high schools and community colleges will be pivotal in the initiative, as will the academic community at PSU. 

“They’ll provide the educational foundation for this desperately needed workforce, filling the pipeline with plastics and polymer students,” Dawsey said. 

The City of Pittsburg and surrounding communities also will be key partners, he said, as the KPRC looks to locate and launch new manufacturing operations. 

The long-range impact that the establishment of NIMA will have on our campus, in our community, and across our region is incredibly energizing,” Dawsey said. “I hope that every educator, parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, who hears about this will encourage those young people who look to them for guidance to consider the incredible breadth of career opportunities a degree in plastics and/or polymers offers them. And, we have scholarships available. 

This is the second grant in two years that NIST has awarded to the university’s plastics and polymers programs.  

Continued support from such a highly regarded federal agency as NIST brings significant recognition and strong credibility to the tremendous work that is done by our scientific team in polymer research, and to our faculty in Plastics Engineering Technology and Polymer Chemistry for the technical foundation they are providing to our graduates,” Dawsey said. “I fully believe that success breeds success and a rising tide raises all ships.’ There is nothing similar to this at all in the Midwest, and a number of companies are already excited to hear about this potential.” 

Learn more about the KPRC at www.kansaspolymer.com