World Polymer Congress molding in Blacksburg
The World Polymer Congress, an international scientific gathering held once every 15 years in the United States, is a six-day event for researchers, inventors and students of large-molecule science, the study of plastics and other materials valued for lightness, hardness and pliability.
Fifteen hundred experts, including a recipient of the Nobel Prize, are expected on campus. The school has established temporary bus routes to speed up transport and drinking water stations to avoid plastic bottles.The event has been held in Paris, France; Taipei, Taiwan; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Glascow, Scotland, and now comes to Southwest Virginia because of Tech’s scientific forte. Tech, which has 52 polymer scientists, 120 graduate students and a university research center dating to 1975, was chosen by
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, the event’s governing authority, said Timothy Long, a chemistry professor and associate dean at Tech who chaired the organizing committee.
Hosting the congress is “a huge statement of Virginia Tech’s excellence in science. For us to have the honor to host it, it will be a legacy. It will be, certainly for me, something I will remember for the rest of my life,” Long, 50, said.
While at one point early on he feared poor attendance because of Blacksburg’s relatively small size and obscurity compared to other host cities, the turnout has met or exceeded the turn at past polymer congresses, Long said. Sixty percent of the conferees are coming from outside the United States.
Scientists from as far away as Thailand will be offered such excursions as tubing on the New River and hiking to the Cascades. But most of the time they will assemble to learn and study inside Torgersen Hall.
In the spirit of “teaching each other,” Long said a wide menu of presenters will deliver 13 concurrent sessions every weekday. Hundreds of pages of handouts will be issued to conferees on USB drives.
Experts will discuss the innovative role of polymers in the design and delivery of medical care, including cancer treatment; in safety and security, as in the developer of sensors and electronic devices for surveillance and war; and in environmental sustainability. While some people judge the actions of science detrimental, and point to developments that led to the widespread use of plastics, Long said this group believes polymers are a sustainable material — a net asset in the long-term.
Among the speakers are Robert Grubbs, a chemistry professor at the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, Calif., and recipient of the 2005 Nobel Prize in chemistry, and Robert Lang, another California scientist and “one of the foremost origami artists in the world,” an announcement said.
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