Southern Miss Asst. Professor awarded prestigious grant

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM)  A USM assistant professor was recently awarded a prestigious grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Derek Patton , 33, an assistant professor in the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials was awarded a prestigious NSF CAREER grant designed to recognize outstanding work by junior faculty across the country.

"The competition for the CAREER is fierce. It really is a long shot when you apply for one of these grants, "said Patton, who snared the award on his first try. "The truth is, it really hasn't sunk in yet that I was awarded one of the CAREER grants. This is a major goal for young faculty members everywhere and I am certainly grateful to be a recipient of this award."

Patton's award of $500,000 will be administered in $100,000 increments spread out over five years. The award will be renewed each year conditionally upon availability of funds and the scientific progress of the project.

The NSF CAREER program offers these awards in support of the early career-development activities of those teacher/scholars who effectively incorporate research and education within the context of their organization. Patton's submitted his application under the project title: "Functional Polymer Surfaces and Networks via Thiol-Click Chemistry."

Patton plans to use the grant to develop strategies for the fabrication of multifunctional polymer surfaces and hybrid polymer networks using highly efficient, orthogonal chemistries. Or, as Patton explains, "surfaces mediate the interaction of a material with the surrounding environment and dictate properties such as biocompatibility and corrosion resistance. We are using century-old chemistry to modify the surface properties of polymeric materials in a controlled and modular fashion."

In the area of educational outreach, Patton wants to apply an integrated, discovery-driven education program that promotes polymer science and diversity in grades kindergarten through graduate school.

Patton joins a list of colleagues at Southern Miss who also received NSF CAREER grants recently. Those include Dr. Doug Masterson, associate professor and associate chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Dr. Paige Phillips, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Dr. Steve Stevenson, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Dr. Wujian Miao, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Dr.Julie Cwikla, assistant professor in mathematics education at Southern Miss Gulf Coast.

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