$1.4 million grant to help KPRC create ag-related jobs 

  Thursday, August 5, 2021 8:30 AM
  News, Science and Technology

Pittsburg, KS


A $1.4 million federal grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology will help the Kansas Polymer Research Center at Pittsburg State University develop and promote new polymeric materials and plastics processing capabilities — all with an eye toward creating new jobs in the region. 

“Everything we’re doing is around creating jobs," said Tim Dawsey, executive director of the KPRC. “We have a huge agricultural economy here which is very vulnerable to the next drought, freeze, or flood.” 

“We must diversify it to keep it sustainable, and to do that, we’ll use our plastics and polymer expertise to develop new technology-based jobs – higher paying tech jobs, manufacturing job — into the area. That means taking agricultural products, byproducts, or waste, and turning them into value-added products, and then commercializing them.” 

The grant, a continuation of a previous grant, had the support of Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), and Rep. Jake LaTurner (R-Kan.). 

It will be used by the National Institute for Materials Advancement (NIMA), housed in the KPRC on the campus of PSU, which will leverage a 50-year history in polymers and plastics, the expertise of scientists who work there, and the assistance of students enrolled in one of the nation’s only polymer programs, the Polymer Chemistry Initiative. 


Recent research there has focused on value-added applications of vegetable oil-based materials, including a new battery, a new golf ball, and a type of non-flammable foam, among other things. 

“Our goal is to develop innovative solutions that will very positively impact the region’s workforce and economy,” Dawsey said. 

Moran noted that Pittsburg State has over the past five decades “established itself as a national leader in polymers and plastics research." 

“I supported the creation of NIMA at PSU, and I’m pleased to see this continued federal investment in the innovative work and research happening in southeast Kansas,” he said. “These new resources will help diversify the regional workforce by creating new technology-based jobs, boosting the local economy and further solidifying PSU’s leadership in this field.” 

LaTurner called the grant “pivotal in the study and development of new plastics, polymeric materials, and one that will allow for economic growth in Southeast Kansas.” 

“As a proud Gorilla, I am very pleased to see Pittsburg State University receive a $1.4 million grant to fund the Kansas Polymer Research Center National Institute for Materials Advancement,” he said. 

Marshall said that “Continued investment in NIMA will help Pittsburg State become a leader in the development and promotion of new polymeric materials and plastics processing.”  

“Building on 50-plus years of history in polymers and plastics, NIMA will create high-paying, technology-based jobs in the Pittsburg area and continue to grow and expand economic opportunities in southeast Kansas,” Marshall said. 

The grant also ties in seamlessly with the KPRC’s FARMS program — Farmers Accelerating Research in Materials Science — in tandem with K-State Extension Service. Started in 2019, it will continue in Spring 2022 with visiting scientists from Virginia Tech and Arizona State and upwards of 100 farmers and ranchers exchanging ideas. 

Learn more 

Learn more about the NIST Material Measurement Laboratory at www.nist.gov/mml 

Learn more about the KPRC at www.kansaspolymer.com/