New degree at Southern Miss combines sports and polymers

The University of Southern Mississippi's new degree program in Sports and High Performance Materials is unique.

It aims to produce research scientists with expertise in the connection between human performance and high-tech materials.

Polymer science professor Jeff Wiggins, a former general manager of manufacturing at Nike, says the program will produce a new kind of scientist that doesn't exist today.

The $400 billion sporting goods industry and the military sector are wide open to such scientists, who would study and advance ways to minimize injury or enhance human performance.

Officials say many of these scientists could become entrepreneurs in their own right should their research yield a next-generation baseball bat, sweat-wicking fabric or mouth guard.

Polymer science faculty know firsthand the benefit of being part of a successful niche program.

Southern Miss' polymers program is an international leader, and Wiggins said he hopes the new sports and high performance materials program can gain similar traction and help the entire university.