Virginia Tech’s recent advances in polymer science and engineering research will be on display from November 4-6 at the Macromolecules Innovation Institute’s (MII) technical conference, which is held every 18 months.

The theme of this year’s conference, which will be held at the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center, is “Macromolecular Materials Discovery at the Intersection of Science, Engineering, and Society.”

The objective of the conference is to take stock of polymer research across campus, celebrate achievements, and set the course for the next 18 months of interdisciplinary collaborations.

“We want to showcase a molecules to manufacturing paradigm where we are taking fundamental laboratory discoveries, and we are translating them to society,” said MII Director Timothy Long, who is also a professor of chemistry. “That’s innovation!”

The program will feature six plenary speakers, 27 oral presentations, and more than 100 student posters. 

Plenary Speakers

  • Matthew Becker, Professor of Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering and Material Science, and Orthopaedics, Duke University
  • Katharine Covert, Program Director, National Science Foundation
  • Ashley Dustin, Research Chemist, HRL Laboratories
  • John Layman, R&D Section Head of Materials Science, Procter & Gamble
  • M. Muthukumar, Wilmer D. Barrett Professor of Polymer Science and Engineering, UMass Amherst
  • Askim Senyurt, Owens Corning

Long said the plenary speaker slate will bring diversity not only in classical definitions, but also diversity in knowledge, expertise, and background.

Becker and Muthukumar are professors; Dustin, Layman and Senyurt come from industry; and Covert works at the NSF, a key governmental funding source at Virginia Tech. Dustin, Layman, and Senyurt are also MII alums.

In addition to the presentations, MII will hold a pre-conference workshop titled “Learning about Machine Learning” and a post-conference workshop on polymer characterization by Tosoh.

MII Associate Director Christopher Williams, who is also a professor of mechanical engineering, said he hopes industrial partners will take note of the breadth of polymer research happening at Virginia Tech.

“Expect to see advances in every aspect of polymer science and engineering, from synthesizing brand-new materials to characterizing those materials, processing them, and modeling their performance and interactions,” Williams said. “We hope our external visitors will also meet our talented graduate students, who have expertise across that entire spectrum.”

Although trends in polymer research change frequently — Long notes there’s a lot of attention currently on reducing the impact of plastics in the environment — Long said MII remains steadfast on fundamental science and engineering research and putting that research into action to impact society.

“That bedrock in the way we educate and do research is a strong testament to what Virginia Tech is all about,” Long said.