May 19, 2019  

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USM Polymer Student Wins Prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

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University of Southern Mississippi (USM) doctoral student Reese Sloan is the latest in a long line of outstanding scholars to receive the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship award.

Sloan, a Wiggins, Miss., native, is the University’s 18th student, with a current enrollment, to earn an NSF fellowship in the past 12 years. This year's fellowship committee awarded fellowships to fewer than 20 percent of applicants nationwide.

Sloan is nearing completion of his second year as a USM graduate student on a doctoral track in polymer science and engineering. He is currently working under the tutelage of USM polymer Professor Derek Patton. Sloan said the NSF Fellowship caught him off guard.

“I was honestly shocked that I had been chosen to receive the award. It is a very prestigious award that many graduate students around the country compete for,” he said. “After looking at the list of other recipients, I realized that I was selected among other graduate students from prominent research institutions such as Yale and MIT.

“Being recognized on the same level of research and academic standing as students of such high caliber is highly encouraging and very exciting,” he added. “It really puts into perspective the high level of research and extraordinary teaching that is being conducted here in the School of Polymer Science and Engineering at USM.”

The fellowships cover three years of funding. Students receive a $34,000 stipend every year as well as a $12,000 cost of attendance allowance tenable at any university in the country. NSF Graduate Research Fellows are selected on the basis of their academic merit as well as their potential for broader impact on the greater scientific community and society as a whole.

A transfer student from Jones College, Sloan graduated summa cum laude from USM with an undergraduate degree in polymer science before entering the graduate program.

Sloan’s current research involves developing the next generation degradable materials through incorporation of acetal and ketal linkages along polymer backbones by means of monomer design and thiol-click chemistries.

“By changing polymer architecture, we can tune the polymer degradation. Our goal is to develop materials that readily degrade under landfill conditions in an effort to combat the plastic pollution epidemic that is observed throughout the world,” said Sloan.

Danielle Manasco, Project Director for Nationally Competitive Programs, notes that the USM’s track record of winning high-competitive scholarship awards further enhances the University’s reputation as an elite research institution.

“The University of Southern Mississippi has produced 36 NSF scholars which is a testament to the outstanding research programs and outstanding students we have here at USM,” she said. "Reese is an exceptional student, and this nationally competitive award will connect him to further national opportunities as a scientist."

To view the entire list of NSF Graduate Research Fellowship winners, visit: https://www.nsfgrfp.org/