What is the LSU Macromolecular Studies Group?

Research Focus Groups

Description (as it appears in Louisiana Materials Research Consortium planning documents)

This interdepartmental coalition of 20 faculty has raised the quality of research and teaching to a level of international recognition.  It was in the first cadre to receive a prestigious Materials, Synthesis and Processing award from NSF.  Attesting to its continued productivity and growth, in 1999 MSG was selected from a starting field of 270 applicants to receive one of 19 NSF-IGERT awards ($3.2M).  It joins 99 other IGERT sites nationwide, spanning all research areas supported by NSF, in the quest to reinvigorate graduate school through interdisciplinary research, education and training.  Research ranges from characterization of polyolefins to the macromolecular aspects of Alzheimer’s disease.  Other projects include molecular imprinting, biopolymer structure and dynamics, polymer-surface interactions, polymer-clay composites and precursors, other composite materials and polymer modification.  Two junior faculty hold NSF-CAREER awards.  MSG enjoys excellent relations with regional, national and international partners in industry.  It is working to galvanize Louisiana’s other academic polymer efforts; the relations with Tulane University and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette are particularly close.  Funding comes from NSF, NIH, USDA, DOE, ACS, Research Corporation and various industrial and state sources.  Currently, MSG claims $11.9M in externally funded research.  Year 2003 research expenditures exceeding $3M will support or partially support 10 postdoctoral researchers and 61 graduate students.  Group members hold 38 patents and a significant portion of those awarded to LSU.  In the years 2001-2, 134 papers were abstracted; of these, 90 appeared in peer-reviewed journals. 

History and Purpose

The LSU Macromolecular Studies Group was founded in 1985 with a program development grant from the Louisiana Center for Energy Studies. Its mission is to coordinate education, research and service in the science and technology of large molecules, both synthetic and bio-derived. MSG now includes some 20 faculty in 6 campus units. There are additionally affiliate members from other Louisiana universities. As a result, with the possible exception of Ohio, no other state offers such a wide range of academic support for polymer-related activities.  Supported activities include travel by graduate students to meetings, student awards, seminars at LSU and other Louisiana universities by outside speakers, minicourses, minisymposia and student recruiting. Most MSG faculty have joint research projects, and interdepartmental communication and cooperation are excellent. MSG maintains outstanding relationships with the polymer industry, and now derives most of its funding though industrial contract work performed in the Polymer Analysis or Polymer Engineering and Properties Laboratories.  

Studying Macromolecules at LSU

Students are qualified and admitted by the Graduate School into one of the participating departments and pursue an advanced degree in that department. Students learn to interact with fellow citizens of the polymer community through interdisciplinary research, cross-populated courses, and social and scientific events of all kinds. Encounters with industrial researchers are frequent, and many students are given the opportunity to present their work at national conferences during their residence. Thus, MSG students receive every opportunity to begin a strong industrial or academic career.  

Well trained graduates are our most important asset. The desire of the Macromolecular Studies Group is that each student become first and foremost an expert in his or her chosen field and then add the science and technology of macromolecules. Taking shortcuts and learning just what one needs to know to be a practicing polymer scientist or engineer definitely are not encouraged. We seek highly motivated students with keen intellect and intense curiosity, who can undertake rigorous coursework training and still actively perform research of the highest calibre. Course requirements vary according to department. Students ordinarily confer with faculty in their departments to establish which courses are most useful to them. Factors influencing these decisions include: interests of the student, need for remediation, research readiness, and a liberal education in macromolecules. The core curriculum of lecture and laboratory courses is taught by Chemistry, Biochemistry and Chemical Engineering. All Macromolecular Studies Group students are encouraged to take these courses some time during their residence.

NSF IGERT Program:  Teaching Craft for Macromolecular Creativity

LSU offers an NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training center devoted to polymers and biopolymers.  The novel approaches to graduate education being developed here may serve as models for other interdisciplinary areas of research.  The CMC-IGERT program creates an ideal environment for top graduate students pursuing a career in industry, academia or the national laboratories.