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Teaching and research in Polymers & Coatings at North Dakota State University.

The Department of Polymers and Coatings (P & C) at North Dakota State University goes back to 1904-1906 when the first paint chemistry course was offered as part of the chemistry curriculum. Activities in paint chemistry research continued from that date and led to the establishment of the Department of Polymers and Coatings in 1962. Today the department has the only Ph.D. program focusing on coating science in the U.S. With both federal government and private corporate research support the faculty currently direct and perform research at a rate of approximately $3 million/yr. Recently relocated in an impressive new facility in the NDSU Research and Technology Park, teaching and research activities at the undergraduate and graduate levels in P & C are booming. In the last decade or so we have graduated well over 100 M.S. and Ph.D. students, who today have a significant impact on the direction and future of coatings science and coatings businesses.

The Department of Polymers and Coatings is mainly a graduate level department, granting a Ph.D. in Polymers & Coatings Science or Chemistry and an M.S. in Polymers and Coatings Science or Chemistry. The undergraduate degree requirement for admission to the P & C Graduate Program is now open to those with a degrees in Chemistry, as well as Chemical Engineering, Materials Science and/or Engineering, or related science and engineering degrees. The department has developed a range of interactions with the coatings industry. The focus of many of these relationships is the department's Industrial Advisory Board. The IAB meets annually with the department. Together they bring a broad range of backgrounds to bear on departmental issues. The IAB reviews and makes recommendations on the P & C program curriculum, thereby not only helping with technical trends in the field, but also bringing to the forefront student needs and the quality of their preparation for future employment.

Undergraduate education has always been one of the top priorities at NDSU. A P & C option is offered for undergraduate majors in Chemistry, and a closely related option is offered for majors in Mechanical Engineering. Enrollment in coatings courses averages 20-30 students/year. A major attraction is our scholarship program, which exceeds $30,000/year. Scholarship sponsors include: CIEF; Ira R. Messer Award; George A Nichols (endowed by DeSoto); Northwestern Society for Coatings Technology; Carlton L. Rydstrom, Sr. Memorial; Tnemec Company and its Representatives supporting the Albert C. Bean, Sr. Foundation; Emest T. Trigg Scholarship and Joseph A. Vasta Memorials (vested through CIEF); Valspar Foundation; Wicks Fund; Rheineck Memorial; and the Lowell F. Wood Fellowship.

The P & C Department also offers continuing education. Our 2004 Coatings Science Course, to be held June 6-11, continues a tradition of providing intensive training in coatings science for industrial and government scientists with a technical background but little or no training in coatings.


Gordon Bierwagen (Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry, Iowa State University), who joined the department in 1989 after 20 years of industrial experience, continues his duties as managing editor of Progress in Organic Coatings. Along with Prof. Dennis Tallman, Dr. Bierwagen directs studies of aircraft coating durability in simulated exterior and corrosive environments and replacement of chromates in aircraft coating systems for the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) and directs work for the National Center on Preservation Technology and Training on Protective Coatings for Architectural Bronzes. He is also involved with a Combinatorial Materials Research program supported by the ONR and directed by Prof. Dean Webster. Dr. Bierwagen's research group has had nine refereed research articles either published or accepted for publication this year. In the same time period, Prof Bierwagen has made seven formal presentations on his research, including a paper with graduate student Michael Nanna that won First Place in the 2003 Roon Award Competition. His graduate students have made five poster presentations.

Prof. Stuart G. Croll joined the faculty in 2000. He received his doctorate in polymer physics at the University of Leeds. After working in England, and then the Div. of Building Research in the National Research Council Canada, he joined The Sherwin-Williams Co. before working with Ti[O.sub.2] pigments at Millenium Chemical Co. Prof. Croll investigates the weathering durability of coatings by examining the kinetics of degradation to estimate service lifetime. Currently, there is an experimental, spectroscopic approach where to gauge the total damage done to a polymer network during its exposure. Another promising approach is to use Monte Carlo simulations of degradation processes and to correlate physical property changes during weathering to individual degradation events. Dr. Croll is also an adjunct professor in the physics department. He is a member of the JCT Editorial Board, an instructor in the FSCT short courses, and shared in a Roon Award for a paper given in the technical program at the 2002 ICE.

Asst. Prof. Qun (Treen) Huo joined the P & C faculty in Fall 2001 after receiving her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the Univ. of Miami (FL) and two years of post-doctoral research. Her research focuses on nanoparticle and nanomaterial synthesis and application studies. Other research projects are the synthesis of porphyrin compounds to be used to develop ferromagnetic thin film materials with spintronics applications and the synthesis of hydrogen bonding surfactants for latex particle synthesis to improve the stability and rheology of waterborne coatings. A coordinator for graduate student recruitment and admissions, she is also a guest editor for Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces.


Prof. Dean Webster joined the faculty in 2001, after 17 years in industry with Eastman Chemical Company and Sherwin-Williams. Prof. Webster received his B.S. and Ph.D. in Chemistry from Virginia PolyTech. Current research projects involve the design of UV-curable laminating coatings for electronic applications, synthesis of novel crosslinkers, identification of structure-property relationships in thermosetting systems, and preparation of nanocomposites for coatings applications. He is also involved in the development and use of combinatorial and high throughput methods of polymer synthesis, coating formulation, and testing. He directs the Coatings Science Short Course. A member of the FSCT Professional Development Committee, Prof. Webster participates in the FSCT International Coatings Technology Conferences. He and his graduate student Heather Nash won the Third Place award in the 2003 Roon Award competition, and with his students won First Place in the poster session competition.

Victoria Johnston Gelling joined P & C as its first research faculty member in October 2001 as a senior research associate. Dr. Gelling received her B.S. in Chemistry at University of North Dakota in 1996 and Ph.D. from the Dept. of Chemistry in 2001. She is presently involved in research for AFOSR focusing on the use of electroactive conducting polymers as corrosion inhibitors for aircraft aluminum alloys and the electrochemical investigation of coating failure. Dr. Gelling has recently completed projects funded by 3M, Sherwin-Williams, Technology Applications Group Inc., NASA EPSCoR, and Reactive Surfaces Ltd. In addition to her research activities, she is responsible for the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience program, undergraduate scholarships, and undergraduate recruiting. Currently Dr. Gelling has nine publications with numerous talks and posters presented at national conferences.

For more information, contact Prof. Gordon Bierwagen, Chairman, Dept. of Polymers and Coatings, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58105-5376; 701.231.7633; Fax: 701.231.8439; or Email:; website:
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Title Annotation:Educational Guide
Publication:JCT CoatingsTech
Date:Feb 1, 2004
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