By: Kelly A. Salzo
“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.”