Matthew Thompson, a chemical engineering doctoral student at West Virginia University, has been chosen to present his research at the Council for Chemical Research’s annual meeting on Tuesday (May 20) in Alexandria, Virginia. He will be one of eight students chosen from across the nation to speak during two, 90-minute student leader sessions.

His presentation, “Effects of Extensional Flow and Nanoparticle Stabilization on the Morphology of Immiscible Polymer Blends,” will better explain the process of drop break up in stretching flow and the use of a simple extensional flow mixer developed to make practical polymer blends. He has been working on this project for three years as part of his doctoral research.

“Most commercial polymers – or plastics – are mixtures of two polymers, with one component being dispersed in the matrix of the other,” explained Thompson, a native of Franklin. “In the present work, extensional flow, where one molten polymer is stretched into threads before being broken into several drops, is used to mix a very viscous component into a less viscous one.”

“High-value plastics are obtained either by new chemistry or by blending two polymers or by the use of reinforcing fillers,” said Rakesh Gupta, George and Carolyn Berry Professor and chairperson of the Department of Chemical Engineering at WVU. “A third of all plastics used are blends, and Matthew’s work is directed at formulating blends that have the structure needed for desirable properties. If successful, his work will have wide applicability.”

Thompson is eager to learn from “the industry’s current research leaders,” to present his research and represent WVU as a research institution.

“I consider this an extraordinary honor to be considered a future leader of the United States’ chemical and chemical engineering industry,” he said of his selection.

After graduating from WVU in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, Thompson was named a Bayer Scholar, a Swiger Fellow and a Statler Ph.D. Fellow, and used these awards to pursue his research and academic goals. He is also the president of the Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Organization and helped organize the inaugural Plastics Day and Chemical Engineering Day at WVU.

Thompson hopes to continue to research polymers as a professional for a short time and then return to academia. He wants to contribute to the chemical engineering field by both researching cutting-edge technology and training its future minds.

Through this project, Thompson has learned how to be both an engineer and a scientist; he’s realized that he must use both sides of his personality to complete the research.

“I have had to learn to balance the engineer and the scientist in me: the engineer pushing forward to keep the project moving efficiently and the scientist ensuring that important details are not overlooked and that the fundamental science for the project is understood,” Thompson said.



CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources

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