MIT Reports to the President 1998-99


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.

Amoco Corporation supported our second PPST/Amoco poster competition this year in December. More than 80 people attended this event including students, post-docs and faculty from five different departments at MIT. Posters were defended by 32 students/post-docs from four different MIT departments and $2200 in prize money was awarded at the end of the poster session. The winners this year were; "Best in Show" graduate student and post-doc, Darrell Irvine (DMSE) and Dr. Amlan Pal (DMSE); "Technical Creativity", Michael Durstock (DMSE) and "Contribution to Scientific Knowledge", Heidi Burch (CE). The PPST seminar preceding the poster competition was given by Dr. Jacoby of Amoco Corporation and the competition was judged by five Amoco researchers. Amoco Corporation also generously agreed to help support two MIT UROP students in the summer of 1999. The two students, Solar Olugebefola and Kerri-Ann Hue, will be carrying out polymer-related research under the supervision of Professor Anne Mayes in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. We are glad to report that Amoco has agreed to support a third Amoco/PPST poster competition in the coming year.

The PPST weekly seminar continues to attract an average of 50—80 students/faculty per seminar. This past year, stimulating lectures were presented by leading polymer faculty from a number of US and European universities (three of these speakers were former PPST students) as well as from within MIT. PPST seminars were also given by two MIT graduate students and an MIT post-doc. Professor Paula Hammond (CE) has assumed responsibility for organizing the PPST seminar. This important responsibility was previously carried out by Professor Greg Rutledge (CE).

In the Fall Term 1998, six new PPST students were admitted into the program from the departments of Chemical Engineering (2) and Materials Science and Engineering (4). One student has deferred admission until 1999.

Our revised curriculum is still in need of some fine-tuning. The students feel that the first semester is too overloaded with subjects. In addition, some of the PPST core subjects are only offered on an every other year basis, making it difficult to coordinate the program and maintain continuity. An alternative, more flexible scheduling of subjects is under consideration and will be presented to the PPST faculty in the near future.

More information about the Program in Polymer Science and Technology can be found on the World Wide Web at

Michael Rubner

MIT Reports to the President 1998-99