Professor Draws Research Program to USM


The inaugural National Science Foundation Research Traineeship Program (NRT) was brought to The University of Southern Mississippi due to a project by professor Derek Patton.

The graduate education training project puts Southern Miss in the company of other research universities, including University of California, Berkeley, Pennsylvania State University and Northwestern University, among others. 

This is simply an outstanding result, which speaks directly to the confidence the National Science Foundation (NSF) has in (Patton) not only as principal investigator, but a future leader in our field,” said Jeff Wiggins, director of the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials.

Patton, an associate professor in the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials, was the principal investigator on a collaborative proposal titled “NRT: Training Next-Generation Scientists with Experimental, Theoretical and Computational Competencies for Complex Interfaces (INTERFACE).”

According to a Southern Miss press release, the award is just above $2.8 million, covering five years.

Derek L. Patton- Courtesy PhotoOur vision is to immerse students in a new model of graduate training that combines theory with experiment, employs a common vocabulary and develops expertise in both computational and experimental techniques,” Patton said in a Southern Miss press release.

Our goal is to provide students with the skills needed in industrial, academic and national labs to drive American competitiveness and enable advanced materials innovation.”

The Southern Miss project was created to train materials researchers with interdisciplinary data-driven research and education coupled with professional development, which will equip them with the skills necessary for the time.

In addition, by reviewing (Patton’s) selection of co-PIs it is clear to me that (Patton is) providing broad support to the college and university which will lead to heightened educational opportunities for many students and programs,” Wiggins said. 

The program was created to encourage development in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduate training and will feature a series of workshops with training in professional skills such as project management, problem solving, conflict resolution, high performance teamwork, business etiquette, research ethics and oral and written communication, according to the National Science Foundation website.

According to Patton, approximately 40 NRT trainees will come through the program at Southern Miss over the next five years. Over that time the trainees will take part in internships, which will expose them to career paths spanning academia, industry, national labs and government policy.

This NRT program should provide an excellent opportunity to recruit high quality students into our graduate program,” Patton said in a Southern Miss press release.