CSU student wins national award for research on sustainable polymers

Blaine McCarthy was announced as the 2019 winner for the DSM Science and Technology Award for her research on using renewable energy sources to create plastic. This award is given to one graduate student each year by Dutch State Mines (DSM) and the Division of Polymer Science (POLY) of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

This year, four finalists were chosen and awarded a $1,000 travel grant to compete at the fall ACS national meeting in San Diego, California on August 28. Finalists presented a short lecture on the topic “Polymers for a Sustainable Future”.

For her presentation titled “Sunlight-Driven Polymer Synthesis for a Sustainable Future,” McCarthy was chosen as the 2019 awardee. This honor includes a plaque and an honorarium of $5,000.


Polymers for a sustainable future

McCarthy, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in chemistry, gave a 30-minute presentation on her research of creating plastic in a more sustainable way. Through her research under Garret Miyake, her group has created a process that utilizes light as a renewable energy source, instead of heat, to make plastic.

“There are still elements of our method that could be more sustainable such as our starting materials,” McCarthy said. “This was a large part of my presentation: finding materials that are derived from biomass rather than the petroleum refining industry that can work in our method for creating plastic.”

McCarthy’s next step is exploring other types of bio-derived starting materials that can be used with this method.

Three other finalists presented from Texas, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania.

Science and technology award

Other chemists who have received this award, including Frank Leibfarth and Christopher Bates, are now professors at R1 doctoral universities, which are universities considered to have the highest research activity.

The DSM Science and Technology Award was established in 2011 to recognize and reward excellence in innovative Ph.D. research in polymer technology. The award is administered by the POLY division of the ACS and is sponsored by Royal DSM.