Graduate Student Feature: Garrett Kraft

By: Kelly A. Salzo

Garrett Kraft
Garrett Kraft

“One of the things I really like about working in the polymer industry is that you can make a material that is tangible and has unique properties which make it different from any other material that’s out there,” Garrett explains. “This creates the opportunity to construct high performance materials for very specific applications.”

IMS graduate student Garrett Kraft realized his passion for polymer science while pursuing his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin. After receiving his degree, Garrett sought out schools with strong polymer science programs and UConn’s prestigious Polymer Program caught his eye.

During his three years at in the IMS Polymer Program, Garrett has worked on a number of research projects under the direction of Dr. Douglas Adamson, which include developing adhesives that selectively bind particles in a complex mixture, investigating the use of synthetic non-peptide based polymers to mimic the catalytic activity of proteins, and exploring the applications of two-dimensional materials in polymer composites. He is also currently working on a project with ExxonMobil, creating polymers with a very narrow polydispersity and complex architectures.

Garrett attributes his current success in the field to being open to change. The materials science industry is in constant flux due to innovations in technology, which is one of the aspects of materials science he finds most compelling. “Research is always evolving and you are always finding new skills to develop,” Garrett says. He also finds his communication skills crucial to his success in the lab, as well as his constant curiosity.

In the future, Garrett is interested in pursuing green technology, specifically deriving or isolating monomers from biological feedstocks and creating materials which can break down naturally. Finite petroleum resources and environmental concerns make this area of research very appealing to polymer scientists.

Besides conducting graduate research, Garrett serves as president of the UConn Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) student chapter. Under Garrett’s direction, the UConn chapter recently applied for official status as a student chapter and since then, the student chapter garnered support from the National chapter, including a visit from the CEO and financial support. Very recently, the organization received national recognition and has been awarded the Outstanding Student Chapter Award which Garrett will receive at the ANTEC conference in Orlando, Florida at the end of the month. Garrett also spearheaded the initiative to make UConn’s chapter more engaging for its members by organizing plant tours and research seminars. “We have also been trying to connect more with alumni,” Garrett explains. “Two previous alumni came in and gave us insight on what they are doing currently, what exactly happens after grad school, and how the job searching process works so students can see what they can do with their degree.”

When asked what advice he would give to other students pursuing a career in material science, Garrett says: “Always keep on exploring. Try to find more information about areas you are interested in by talking to different people, whether they are students, faculty, or people in industry. Hopefully by talking to different people, you discover something you find fascinating enough to research for your Ph.D.”

IMS Hosts SPE CT Section February Meeting

By Kelly A. Salzo

 SPE officers, SPE CT-section members, students and faculty
Left to Right: Richard Nunn*, Robert Hammond*, Mark Corbett*, Lalit Mahajan, James Martin*, YoungHee Chudy, Russell Broome+, Sarah Sullinger+, Greg Treich, Sue Wojnicki+, Garrett Kraft, Associate Professor Luyi Sun. (*SPE CT section members; +SPE National Office)

The Polymer Program and the UConn Society of Plastics Engineers student chapter co-sponsored the SPE CT section February meeting on Wednesday, February 18th, 2015. Three officers from the SPE CT section and four members of the SPE national office attended the meeting.

The Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE), an international organization dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and education for all plastics professions, organizes a monthly meeting to discuss recent developments within the organization. The UConn SPE chapter was selected to host the February meeting.

The meeting opened with a presentation by Mr. Russell Broome, the SPE Managing Director, entitled, “From a College Student to a Young Professional to an Industry Veteran” offering valuable advice to current students interested in a career in industry. Following the presentation a number of exciting announcements were made. First, the SPE Connecticut Section announced their plans to sponsor a student to attend the ANTEC and NPE national conference in Orlando, Florida, March 23rd through 25th. The SPE headquarters also expressed their intentions to partner with industry to sponsor students, eliminating the student membership fee. The current trial phase has seen student membership double over the past 6 months. Additionally, Russell Broome and SPE headquarters revealed their new networking and social media tool called the Chain. Inspired by LinkedIn, the Chain is an online forum divided into several communities including technical and social topics, and career connections with the goal to connect plastic professionals with an easy to navigate interface.

Around 40 students attended the meeting, interested in the opportunity to learn about new developments in the polymer and plastics industry in Connecticut and network with industry professionals on the SPE national board.

In addition to hosting the SPE February meeting the UConn student chapter has also organized various events and activities including tours of local plants in the industry and outreach programs increasing education in polymers from elementary school through high school. During the Polymer Program Seminar Series, SPE members volunteer by supervising equipment and setting up refreshments. Additionally, the organization arranges the SPE Student Seminar Series that invites field leaders, senior students and postdoctoral fellows from the Southern New England area to present on polymer related topics.

For more information on becoming a student member please contact the UConn SPE student president, Garrett Kraft.