The PSE student body consists of over 120 Ph.D. candidates possessing diverse backgrounds and professional goals, in addition to over a dozen from other departments that are advised by our faculty . Currently about 70% of the group are American and 30% foreign; the Americans come from every region of the country and the foreigners from every region of the world. Most students enter our program immediately after receipt of their undergraduate degree, but approximately a third of the group has spent some time in industry, often in polymer-related jobs. Few have had extensive polymer experience, either academic or industrial, a factor that does not hinder their progress and success in the Ph.D. program.
Upon matriculation into PSE, students specialize through choice of thesis research project to focus in one subarea of polymer science and engineering. However, our coursework and cumulative exam system are designed to produce intellectual breadth across the polymer discipline. The PSE community is highly interactive; individuals focused on synthesis research work in laboratories alongside students engaged in physical chemistry, engineering, or physics research. This dynamic environment fosters interdisciplinary research and mimics the conditions often seen by polymer scientists and engineers working in the "real world".
In recent years, many of the department's outreach programs, especially those in education, have been initiated, designed, and undertaken by members of the PSE Club, the official student organization attached to the department. These service activities extend from classroom talks at local elementary schools to technical assistance regarding exhibits at the National Plastics Museum. The scope of student outreach activities clearly underlines the enthusiasm and energy that PSE students devote to their discipline, and in many cases, provides sound leadership preparation for future life.
The PSE department is proud of its alumni and often seeks their advice. Many intellectual leaders of the polymer field began their careers with study in PSE. We can count an astronaut, several chaired professors, leaders of numerous professional organizations, and company presidents among our alumni. Next to the current student body, the department's alumni are its greatest strength.