The Dow Chemical Company recently awarded a $15 million grant to UCSB’s Materials Research Laboratory for a new research institute that will allow students to utilize Dow facilities and learn from the company’s researchers.
Students will meet Dow researchers, visit the corporation’s facilities and conduct research to experience industrial studies firsthand and foster collaboration between the organization and campus.
MRL Director and materials and chemistry professor Craig Hawker said the institute will take in 25 to 30 students every year.
According to Hawker, the program provides students with a unique opportunity to apply classroom skills and knowledge in a professional context.
“One of our best products is our students,” Hawker said. “This program gives great opportunities for them. It exposes them to how business operates internationally — something students don’t normally get to experience.”
Hawker said the facility prepares participants for careers in the fields of materials science and engineering.
“To say that the students will be the heart and soul of the center would not be an understatement,” Hawker said. “We’ve been attracting some of the best students in the country, and the recruiting of post-doctoral researchers has already started. The real push will be in January and February.”
Chemical Engineering Dept. Chair Michael Doherty said students will participate alongside renowned scientists in revolutionary research to undertake prominent advancements in chemical engineering.
“If you’re not dancing with death in research, you’re not doing research,” Doherty said. “The cutting edge is an important place to be. Most published papers never get cited — why would you spend five years writing a paper nobody wants to cite? It’s important to collaborate with the people who really know what the problems are.”
According to Dow’s Sustainable Technologies Vice President Theresa Kotanchek, the department could receive additional funding from Dow Chemical based on researchers’ progress at the institute as it will be an ongoing project.
Hawker said he will act as a liaison between the university and Dow Chemical to monitor the advancements made within the facility.
“I’m a conduit or exchange point — I can scan the horizon at UCSB and tell the important things to my counterparts at Dow,” Hawker said.
The corporation decided to fund UCSB based on UCSB Materials Research Department’s top ranking in the nation and its Chemical Engineering Department’s second-place national ranking, according to Kotanchek.
“We have to decide which [schools] are the future areas of growth and that means working with the very best institutions,” Kotanchek said. “UC Santa Barbara is without a doubt one of the very best in the world in material science … UCSB is an absolutely perfect partner.”