UA's commitment to research is strong


Dear Colleague,

I wanted to share with you some news and perspectives about the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering (PSPE) at The University of Akron in light of a recent opinion column about the future of the College and our commitment to research.

We continue to deploy resources, prioritize, and invest in polymers and our research enterprise despite funding challenges and the high costs associated with research. This year, for instance, we have hired one tenure-track faculty member in Polymer Engineering and actively preparing for the addition of two more tenure-track faculty members — one in Polymer Science and another in Polymer Engineering. Also, the University is making further investments in research and teaching with the hiring of five new tenure-track faculty this year in other engineering disciplines. To further support research and engineering, we are actively seeking to fill five faculty positions in mathematics as well – two tenure-track and three non-tenure track to concentrate on teaching at the undergraduate level.

To facilitate the new hires, the University has earmarked several million dollars in resources to cover the startup costs for the researchers. The startup funds provide for labs, equipment and graduate student support, among other investments, and average $500,000 per arriving assistant professor. As additional support to our research enterprise, the University recently appointed a Director of STEM research and a Director of non-STEM research. We also actively invite industry and individuals to donate to our important research efforts in polymers. Last year, the UA Foundation raised more than $1.1 million for PSPE.

We constantly strive to support the cutting-edge research that is under way at PSPE, led by an outstanding faculty and graduate students. It is true that over the past five years, a number of faculty members have retired or departed for varying reasons, both personal and professional. Most of these departures occurred more than two years ago. However, even with the overall reduction in the number of PSPE faculty members, UA still has more faculty than most other polymer institutions in the country.

All this stands in contrast to conclusions drawn in a recent newspaper column. The author did not seek comment or information from University leaders before or after publication. Had he done so, we would have made it clear that we continue to invest millions in our premier College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering on a yearly basis.

Also, as you likely know, Eric J. Amis, who has been the College’s Dean since July 15, 2014, has announced that he will relinquish his position as Dean, effective June 30, 2018, and return to his tenured position as Professor of Polymer Science. Senior Vice President and Provost Rex Ramsier will work with the College faculty to establish a transition plan, including leadership of the College after June 30.

As Provost Ramsier said in the communication concerning the dean’s announcement, “The University appreciates Eric’s passionate work on behalf of the College and his efforts to expand the reach and reputation of both the College and The University of Akron. We wish him well going forward.”

Dean Amis led several collective initiatives within the College, including the establishment of a Professional Master’s degree, execution of numerous Master Research Agreements with companies and organizations including one with Sandia National Laboratory, hosting of a Graduate Polymer Research Conference for the American Chemical Society Polymer Chemistry Division, enhancement of safety awareness, and an increase in research proposal submissions and awards with more than a 30% success rate. We extend our gratitude to Dean Amis and the College for these and other contributions.

I am extremely grateful for your involvement with and support of the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering and The University of Akron. Should you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me directly.