Dr. ThamesIn the beginning…

Dr. Thames earned a B.S. and Master’s degrees in Chemistry in 1959 and 1961, respectively, from the School of Arts and Sciences of Mississippi Southern College.  In 1962 during Dr. Thames’ first year of graduate studies at the University of Tennessee, Mississippi Southern College was renamed The University of Southern Mississippi (Southern Miss).  When Dr. Thames graduated from Tennessee in 1964 with a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry, he returned to Southern Miss as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry.

Dr. Thames’ interest in polymer science began in 1964 during his association and work with Dr. J. Scott Long, a nationally renowned scientist in coatings, and the director of the Pan American Tung Research and Development League (PATRDL).  The first laboratory of the PATRDL was located in the Southern Miss George Hurst Building.  Dr. Thames’ credits Dr. Long and PATRDL officers, Dr. Eugene Potter and Mr. Win Warren, for their crucial support that allowed his research group to establish a reputation in polymer science.  Indeed, funding from the league supported many of the early chemistry programs at Southern Miss.  It occurred to Dr. Thames at the time that no other educational institution had developed an undergraduate polymer science curriculum and corresponding degree program, and he set out to gain this distinction for Southern Miss.  In 1969, he persuaded Drs. W. D. McCain, then President of the University, and Charles Moorman, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, to approve his request to form the Department of Polymer Science.  Dr. Thames served as the first Polymer Science Department Chair for one year.  The new Department was officially designated on September 1, 1970.

Dr. Thames taught four courses, conducted labs, and continued his research during the initial year.  The Department's undergraduate enrollment increased to over 30 by the fall of 1975.  In 1973, the Department began offering degree programs at both the master's and doctoral levels, and in less than 15 years, it gained national and international recognition for both its educational and research programs.

In 1970, Dr. Thames was named Dean of the College of Science, an outgrowth of the reorganization of the College of Arts and Sciences.  In 1973 during Dr. Thames’ tenure as Dean of the College, he initiated the formation of several technology degree programs and a name change from the College of Science to the College of Science and Technology, to better reflect the College’s mission.

In 1991, the Department moved into the newly constructed Polymer Science Research Center.  Today, the Center, named the Shelby Freland Thames Polymer Science Research Center, is 104,000 sq. ft. and equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation.  Together, the assets total more than $30 million.

In 1999, Dr. Thames was instrumental in the Department’s elevation to the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials, which more fully describes the broad capabilities and faculty expertise.

Dr. Thames has served his beloved University in several capacities while maintaining his research.  In the latest position, he served as the University President from 2002-2007.  In 2007, he returned to his role as the Distinguished University Research Professor in Polymer Science and Engineering.

Dr. RawlinsDr. James W. Rawlins earned his B.S. in Polymer Science in 1993 and his Ph.D. in Polymer Science and Engineering in 1999 from The University of Southern Mississippi under the direction of Dr. Thames.  Upon graduation, he worked in industry for 5 years.  In June 2004, he returned to his alma mater to direct the Thames Research Group, and in August of the same year, joined the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials as an Assistant Professor.  He continued directing the Thames Research Group, however, it was renamed the Thames-Rawlins Research Group to more accurately reflect the collaborative effort.  Both professors’ research focuses on the utilization of biobased raw materials synthesis, characterization, and structure-property relationships for protective, decorative, and functional materials.  Dr. Rawlins, however, expanded his focus into research and development of functional films in several exciting areas:  chemical and biological warfare agent self-decontaminating films, light emitting thin films, polymer photovoltaic materials for solar cell applications, and self-healing materials for a variety of polymeric materials.

Together, the Thames-Rawlins Research Group supports the coatings industry in problem solving, testing, evaluation, formulations, long- or short-term contracts, research and development, and technology reduction-to-practice.



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Thames-Rawlins Research Group    |    118 College Drive #05217 Hattiesburg, MS 39406    |    Phone: 601.266.5618    |    Fax: 601.266.5880
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