Wiggins dubbed School of Polymers director

Jeffrey Wiggins was named the new director of the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials at USM after serving as interim director for the past year.  Courtesy Photo
Jeffrey Wiggins was named the new director of the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials at USM after serving as interim director for the past year.
Courtesy Photo

Known for his high quality of research and renowned leadership skills, Jeffrey Wiggins was named the new director for the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials at The University of
Southern Mississippi.

For the past year, Wiggins served as the school’s interim director, taking over after longstanding director Robert Lochhead. Lochhead gave up the position to spend more time in the classroom and complete more research in the laboratory.

“I am honored to have this opportunity to serve the School of Science and Technology and the university in this capacity,” Wiggins said. “I am particularly humbled by the confidence provided to me from my colleagues, students and the university administration.”

Among his initial goals as the new director, Wiggins plans to hire and develop the next generation of polymer science faculty and maintain a fulfilling experience for all polymer
science students.

“He truly cares about the success of each of his students,” said Laken Kendrick, a junior polymer science student. “He has a great relationship with faculty and will bring new ideas and resources to help improve
our school.”

Serving as a member of the Southern Miss polymer science faculty since 2005, Wiggins has research emphasis in sports and high performance materials, glassy polymer networks, sustainable and degradable polymers, reaction extrusion and polymer processing.

His research and teaching abilities led him to much success, resulting in numerous innovative opportunities that include creating a high performance football helmet cushioning system implemented by Rawlings Sporting Goods, collaborating with other colleagues to establish a partnership between the university and General Electric (GE) Aviation and starting an advanced next generation aerospace materials development infrastructure at the university.

“I look forward to working with Dr. Wiggins in his new role,” said Patricia Biesiot, interim dean of the College of Science and Technology. “His leadership qualities and organizational skills make him an ideal fit for the position.”
In August of 2008, Wiggins reached out to Rawlings executives, stating he had an idea for advancing the cushion of a football helmet. However, because Rawlings had not created a helmet over the past 20 years, they were only willing to start the project if he could produce a helmet that would be competitive in the market.

Wiggins created The Rawlings Neuro Responsive Gear (NRG) helmet, implementing dual protection inside the helmet by combining a layer of foam reinforced by pneumatic cushioning made of pressurized “air bladders” that take over and absorb the energy from highly compulsive contact by athletes.

Wiggins leads a team of researchers at Howard Technology Park, GE Aviation’s new facility that opened last April in Ellisville. At the facility, he works with researchers in the polymer science labs at Southern Miss to create advanced, composite materials such as fan blades for the global market. The fan blades are lightweight and durable, translating to fuel savings, energy efficiency and reduced maintenance for high class jet engines.

In addition, Wiggins has graduated five doctoral candidates from his personal mentoring and takes pride in his polymer students being successful at finding employment after graduation. Nearly 100 percent of undergraduates in the program find high-salary jobs immediately, while 100 percent of the graduate students have jobs waiting on them.

“You get out of your education what you put into it,” Wiggins said. “If you join polymer science at Southern Miss, we are going to facilitate your journey, push your mind into places you did not think you could reach, assure you a meaningful career and help you achieve what you want in your professional life.”

To learn more about the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials at Southern Miss, call 601.266.4868 or visit www.usm.edu/polymer.