PPG Research Team Fellowship offers a wealth of knowledge and experience for undergraduate student


PPG has partnered with the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering to offer Research Team Fellowships for undergraduate STEM students pursuing a Minor in Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering. These fellowships provide opportunities for students to gain valuable polymers experience and receive scholarship funds, which can have a major impact on their current studies and future careers in polymers.

Joshua Sukie, Chemistry major and Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering minor

Joshua Sukie, a Chemistry major at The University of Akron, is a prime example of the program’s success. Recently, we had the opportunity to interview Josh about his experiences this fall as a part of a PPG Research Team.

How did you become interested in applying for the Fellowship?
"My current major is Chemistry, the polymer option. I initially chose the polymer option for my chemistry major because I knew about the extraordinary polymer program that is present here at the University. Due to my choosing of this major, I became aware of the Minor in Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering, and I thus chose to enroll in the program, as I believed it would be a unique opportunity to grow in my knowledge of this important area of research. This decision has been one of the best choices of my college career.

"I became interested in the Fellowship because of my involvement in the Minor in Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering. The minor has offered me ample knowledge in the subject of polymers, and it has been a source of opportunity, both in discussing my polymer education with prospective employers, and particularly in having the opportunity to become involved in this Fellowship.”

Josh working in a Goodyear Polymer Center lab

What polymers experience and knowledge have you gained through this Fellowship?
“The opportunity to conduct research during this Fellowship has offered me a wealth of knowledge. I have learned the science behind polymer research from my mentor [Abdala Bashir], my advisor [Dr. Coleen Pugh], and the other graduate students with whom I interact regularly. This knowledge is more plentiful than I ever thought that I would learn as an undergraduate. I have further learned how to use multiple analytical devices, including FT-IR and NMR instruments. This knowledge has given me deeper insight into my field of study, and it has even helped me in my current classes. Finally, and probably most importantly, this research has given me the ability and confidence to conduct research semi-independently. I have been able to run entire experiments on my own, while I am regularly able to discuss the direction of the project with my mentor and to seek his help whenever necessary.

"The Fellowship has specifically, in my case, given me more extensive knowledge about the synthetic methods of creating polymers, especially the science of how the chemistry works. I feel that by participating in this research, I do not merely have a theoretical book knowledge of polymers, but I also have a hands-on and comprehensive knowledge of many polymer concepts.”

How has the Fellowship created opportunities for potential internships/jobs in the polymers industry?
“This coming summer, I have been offered an internship at LORD Corporation. Much of my interview involved discussing my polymer research, and I believe that this research experience in which I have participated was the most important factor in my receiving this internship offer.”

Mentor Abdala Bashir, Advisor Dr. Coleen Pugh, and Josh Sukie

How easy was it to apply for the Fellowship and create a research project?
“The application process for the Fellowship was very simple. The application itself is very straightforward. Probably the most intensive part is coming up with the research idea. But even this was very easy. You do not need to have a graduate level knowledge of polymers to come up with this. You simply need to have a creative research idea and the willingness to work to see it through. The actual work itself is also very helpful to the undergraduate researcher. Once accepted, one’s mentor and advisor will sit down with the researcher and the three together will come up with a research plan. There is nothing to fear, you will never be on your own or without fantastic help in your research. The program is designed to help you and your growth in knowledge about polymer research.”

Would you recommend this Fellowship to other undergraduate students?
“I cannot state how much I would recommend that anybody interested should apply for this Fellowship. The experience you will gain and the scholarship money you will receive are an offer that one can hardly refuse. From this experience, one will be well advanced in their aspirations for a future in research, whether that future includes graduate school, industrial work, academia, or some other research career. Honestly, it is an opportunity with nothing to lose and everything to gain.” 

If you are interested in this program, applying is easy and selected undergraduate students will be provided with a $2,000 merit-based scholarship for their participation in an independent study, two-semester research project. Students involved will also have opportunities to engage with PPG senior staff and/or management. Visit the PPG Research Team Fellowships website for more information and to apply. The application deadline is December 15. 

Want to get started or have questions? Contact Dr. Kevin Cavicchi at 330-972-8368 or mpspe@uakron.edu.