MIT Reports to the President 1996-97


PPST, the Program in Polymer Science and Technology, is an interdepartmental graduate education program. The program provides an opportunity for students at MIT to pursue an intensive polymer-centered education that ranges from molecular to continuum concepts in both engineering and science. The program, consisting of a core curriculum and a written and oral qualifying procedure, is administered by faculty from many diverse disciplines located in the departments of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry. Although essentially an academic program, PPST also functions as a fostering community supporting polymer related activities at MIT. In this capacity, the program functions as an intellectual facilitator, bringing together polymer-interested scholars from within the MIT community and from outside academic and industrial institutions. The program also provides an opportunity to coordinate and enhance the material presented in the many different polymer subjects offered throughout the institute.


Over the past year, the PPST weekly seminar program was reestablished as the focal point for polymer related activities at MIT. The average attendance at the PPST seminar in both the spring and fall semesters has been about 50 (on at least 4 occasions the attendance was close to 80). We have also seen a significant increase in the number of faculty attending these seminars including faculty participation from Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Nuclear Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering. The spring semester seminar series ended with a special PPST/DMSE seminar given by Professor Pierre-Gilles De Gennes; the 1991 Nobel laureate in physics.

The PPST faculty approved major changes to the PPST core curriculum this past year. These changes include the addition of a biomaterials and a surface science subject to the core curriculum. Once implemented, the PPST students will now have exposure to subjects that explore polymer synthesis, polymer processing, polymer physical chemistry, the mechanical behavior of polymers, statistical mechanics of polymers, biomaterials and surface science.

Two categories were established for supporters of the PPST program; PPST faculty and PPST affiliates. The former category represents faculty actively involved in the academic development and administration of the program, whereas the latter category represents faculty who are fully committed to the program but not generally involved in the "day-to-day" activities of the program. There are currently 13 PPST faculty and 13 PPST affiliates.

A new PPST recruiting brochure with updated information describing the unique and innovative options and opportunities available to prospective PPST scholars and information on active PPST faculty members and their research interests has been completed. This brochure is modular in design so that it can be used for many purposes and easily updated as needed.

A PPST scholars office (13-5041) was set-up for our first year PPST students. This is an important development as it helps to establish a sense of community between the PPST students and gives them an opportunity to work together in an intensive manner on their common studies.


Now that a new curriculum has been approved, it will be necessary to work out the details of class scheduling and course selection. Future activities will involve identifying an appropriate biomaterials and surface science subject and working with the instructors of these courses to insure that they are properly connected to the other PPST core subjects.

In addition to implementing our new curriculum, attempts will be made to promote and strengthen strong links with industrial partners and to facilitate mutually beneficial relations with industry. For example, an industrially supported PPST poster competition is currently planned for the coming academic year. An aggressive recruiting campaign is also planned for the coming years. The goal in this case will be to establish a steady-state enrollment of ten students per year.

Michael Rubner

MIT Reports to the President 1996-97