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Grants support faculty-student research of polymeric materials

August 20, 2014
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Dr. Liz Glogowski (left) works with materials science student Liz Stubbs on measuring the viscosity of polymer samples as part of the UW System Applied Research Grant project. Different viscosities of the polymers are important for enhanced oil recovery.

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From left to right: Liz Stubbs, Dr. Liz Glogowski, Phil Conor and Michael Schneider use instrumentation to measure the size of polymer molecules and polymer aggregates/clusters, as well as their charge in water, as part of the American Chemical Society-Petroleum Research Fund project.

EAU CLAIRE — Dr. Elizabeth Glogowski, an assistant professor of materials science at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, has received $105,000 in grant money to continue student-faculty collaborative research related to new polymeric materials.

Polymers are substances containing a large number of repeating units that determine the observed properties. Current applications of polymers include adhesives, coatings, foams, packaging materials, textile and industrial fibers, composites, electronic devices, biomedical devices, and optical devices.

With a $50,000 Applied Research Grant from UW System and WiSys Technology Foundation, Glogowski will continue work on a research project titled "Tuning of New Smart Polymer Surfactants for Enhanced Oil Recovery Applications" to investigate properties of new polymer surfactants, which may have applications for enhanced oil recovery.

"Up to 65 percent of oil can remain after conventional recovery methods are exhausted," Glogowski said. "New technologies have the potential to greatly impact the amount of oil recovered and used globally."

A $55,000 grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund Undergraduate New Investigator program will go toward Glogowski's project titled "Designing 'Smart' Polymer Self-assembling Systems by Tuning Polymer Functionality and Architecture." The overall goal of the project is to produce "smart" polymers, which provide a means of controlling polymer interactions based on an external stimulus, such as temperature, pH or ionic strength.

Undergraduates will participate in each of the research projects and receive summer and academic year support. Glogowski has a strong record of including undergraduate researchers in her work in materials science.

"Two of my former research students have graduated; one currently has a position at a company in Wisconsin, and one is applying to medical schools," Glogowski said.

Materials science major Liz Stubbs, a sophomore from Maple Plain, Minnesota, has been conducting research with Glogowski since fall 2013. This summer, she has been in the lab full time as part of the Applied Research Grant working to synthesize, characterize and test new smart polymer surfactants.

"I'm excited to be making and testing the new polymers," Stubbs said. "The experience will give me valuable knowledge and skills for graduate school in the future."

Junior Phillip Conor, a chemistry with business emphasis major from Appleton, also has been conducting research with Glogowski for the past year. He will continue working alongside Glogowski on the project funded by the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund.

"Being able to work one-on-one with my research adviser is a great learning opportunity," Conor said. "I'm looking forward to gaining more experience working in an organic chemistry lab and with polymers. I also hope to gain experience in the world of academia. Working with Dr. Glogowski has been a wonderful opportunity so far, and I'm excited to see the project move forward."

Research grants such as these provide important opportunities for our materials science students to engage in collaborative research with faculty, said Dr. Doug Dunham, director of the Materials Science Center.

"At UW-Eau Claire, undergraduates have the opportunity to get hands-on experience with the kind of research work they will conduct in master's and doctoral programs, as well as their professional careers," Dunham said. "Research experience is crucial in our students' education and positively impacts their ability to contribute to the economic development of our local, regional and statewide communities."

Applied Research Grant funds also were used to purchase a pendant drop tensiometer to complement the instrumentation currently available at UW-Eau Claire through the Materials Science Center.

In addition to the two grants Glogowski received, Dunham received a $24,786 WiscAMP Small Grant to continue his summer research program, which seeks to bring underrepresented minority students into research early on in their careers with the goal of those students becoming graduates with a STEM degree.

For more information about Dr. Elizabeth Glogowski's research on oil recovery and polymers, contact her at 715-836-3445 or glogowem@uwec.edu.

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