New polymer and composites center at Auburn to advance research and economic development

Published: Nov 5, 2015 11:00:00 AM
Media Contact: Gail Riese, gail@auburn.edu, 334-844-3447

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Maria Auad

Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering has established a new interdisciplinary center to advance polymer and composite engineering.

The Center for Polymer and Advanced Composites will focus on research, graduate education and collaborative outreach opportunities to advance economic growth in Alabama and the Southeast.

Serving as a focal point on campus for polymer and composites research, the center will foster interdisciplinary collaboration among academic units across the university, including the aerospace, biosystems, chemical, industrial and systems, mechanical and materials engineering departments, as well as the School of Nursing and the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine, Agriculture, Human Sciences and Sciences and Mathematics.

“We have a team of exceptional faculty and distinguished alumni who are making significant and enduring contributions in the field of polymers and advanced composites,” said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “This center will serve to elevate innovative research already taking place at Auburn, spur economic development and provide our graduate students with invaluable learning opportunities through partnerships with industry and government entities.”

Centrally located to numerous automotive and aerospace industries, as well as federal agencies in Huntsville, such as NASA, the center will serve as the liaison through which these external entities will interface with Auburn University’s resources and capabilities in polymer and advanced composites research.

Maria Auad, associate professor of chemical engineering, will lead the center as interim director. She joined the Auburn faculty in 2006 and served as the interim department chair of polymer and fiber engineering from 2013-15. Auad has more than 20 years of experience in polymer research, including materials science; nanocomposites; flow behavior; rheology; control of microstructure and nanostructure in materials; structural and biomedical applications; and shape memory.

Auad received both her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering and material science from the University of Mar del Plata in Argentina. She was also a research assistant in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Southern California and a postdoctoral scholar in chemical engineering at the California Institute of Technology.

“The Center for Polymer and Advanced Composites will support the university’s strategic research goals in transportation and the environment, as well as the college’s engineered materials, nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing initiatives. These are interrelated disciplines that are compelling in their promise, important to the region and built on the strengths the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering has developed over the past decades,”
Auad said.

Through a generous gift by Charles Gavin III, a 1959 textile management alumnus, and his wife, Carol Ann, the center will be located in the Gavin Engineering Research Laboratory, formerly known as the Textile Engineering Building. The structure will soon be renovated to include an additive manufacturing facility that will allow students to gain experience with emerging fabrication technology, a series of hands-on student project laboratories, fully equipped traditional research laboratories, student project space and collaborative study meeting areas.