First-Year Seminar: A Plastic World
“My research is in phase behavior and structure-property relationships of polymers. That’s a fancy way of saying that we look at the structure of plastics and how that structure influences, say degradation, over time. For example, in the presence of water the polymer material will break apart and degrade, so if you implant something in the body for a drug delivery application or insert a stent to widen a blocked artery or build scaffolding to grow tissue, this research becomes very critical.
“I’m an alum. I loved my experience here and look at this as an opportunity to give back to this place that had such an impact on my life. A piece of me has always stayed here. My wife is an alum, too—Rachel (Glover) Van Horn ’04 (government and law).
“I’m very open to doing lots of different things. My approach is typically more of a lecture style, but I also like adopting other teaching pedagogies looking at active learning to engage students in different ways. I’m excited about the opportunity to teach and impart on students the liberal arts model of problem solving. You might understand the science, but what are the social implications? I like to work with my students to figure out what methods work best for them.
“This is the first polymer I ever made, and it was here at Lafayette in my polymers course with Professor Bud Martin. He stopped in a couple weeks ago and asked ‘is that what I think it is? You still have that?’ I do because it’s from Lafayette, which is very meaningful to me. This became the focus of my career and my love in terms of science and research. It has all of these personal ties and represents what I do every day. The polymer is called poly (methyl methacrylate), the same material used in Plexiglas.
“I have really diverse interests as do many typical Lafayette students. I play various sports, like basketball, volleyball, and golf, as well as the piano, French horn and clarinet. So though I’m an engineer I do a lot of non-engineering things. When I was at Lafayette, I played in a couple music ensembles, in the pit orchestra for several shows, and was a member of the Marquis Players. I also played club volleyball. It’s nice to do something different, outside of science and engineering.”