289209 A Forty-Five Year Transformation From Engineer to Scientist What Took So Long?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012: 1:05 PM
Allegheny I (Westin )
Chang Dae (Paul) Han, Polymer Eng, University of Akron, Akron, OH

After forty-five years in academia, it is only within the past few that I have been able to think of myself as a scientist.  I began my academic career at Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1967, after completing my graduate studies in Chemical Engineering at MIT and then three years in industry.  The first fifteen years of my research activities were mostly experimental in nature, focused primarily on developing a fundamental understanding of relationships between the viscoelastic properties of molten polymers (polymer rheology) and their processability in various polymer processing operations by the application of chemical engineering principles.  To really understand the influence of the molecular characteristics of molten viscoelastic polymers on their physical properties required, I had to study statistical physics in order to understand the molecular theory of entangled polymer melts.  After several years of applying theory to commercial polymers for my research activities, the inability to control their molecular parameters became a limiting factor to progress.  Nearly midway into my academic career, I began the next phase as polymer chemist in which I began to synthesize my own block copolymers and subsequently liquid-crystalline polymers.  It turned out that these polymer structures had complicated morphology and phase transitions that could be induced by flow and temperature.  In 2003 I began to synthesize functional block copolymers and functional liquid-crystalline polymers having chemical structures which had not yet been reported in the literature.  Using these functional polymers I investigated the effectiveness of the functional polymers on the preparation of exfoliated nanocomposites.  A new, totally unanticipated, turning point of my academic research activity began when in 2007 I began efforts to try to synthesize molecule-based (impurity-free) magnetic polymers.  There are two factors which have motivated me to undertake this challenge.  The first is that no one has ever reported on successful synthesis of magnetic polymers although numerous research groups had tried for over 50 years.  The second is that the synthesis of magnetic polymers demands a good understanding of electronic structure theory based on quantum chemistry.  During past five years I had to synthesize not only new organic compounds and subsequently magnetic polymers, but also study quantum chemistry for a better understanding of the chemical reactivity of two functional compounds.  In short I transformed myself into an organic/polymer chemist over the course of forty-five years.  Although I retired this past May, as an Emeritus Professor I continue to synthesize magnetic polymers and magnetic conducting polymers, and also conduct numerical computations, incorporating electronic structure theory, of the molecular orbital of the functional monomers and magnetic polymers which I have synthesized in my laboratory, which I hope to continue for many years to come.

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