Polymer Science

All tracks begin with intensive summer course work in the area of study. To complete the master's degree, students in this track will also need to complete 30 internship credits and an additional 8 credits of course work. An overview of credits and requirements can be found on the Overview page of this website.

The focus of the Polymer Science program is to introduce the fundamental concepts, processes, preparation and physical characterization of polymers, with emphasis placed on those of commercial interest. Approximately 70% of all chemists work in the polymer industry, so having a background in polymers can be highly advantageous in today's competitive job market.

Past students in our program have worked on a myriad of projects within their companies including drug delivery polymers, anti-radiation coatings for NASA, flexible LCD display panels, UV cure coatings, polyurethane patching compounds and many others.

Students in this track typically have bachelor's degrees in chemistry, biochemistry and chemical engineering.

Summer Course Outline
The summer Polymer Science program includes the following courses:

Synthesis, Characterization, and Processing (Lecture)

This course covers methods of polymer synthesis and characterization; kinetics and mechanisms of the principal polymerization reactions. Introduction to mechanical properties and fabrication techniques. Overview of the methods of structural characterization for important morphological classes of polymers. Techniques for predicting the engineering and physical properties of polymers from their molecular structures. Topics include:

Step Polymers; kinetics, Molecular weight distribution, Control of MW

Chain polymerization; Rates of chain polymerization, radical polymerizations, Chain Transfer, MW distribution in chain polymers, auto-acceleration, auto-inhibition, Energetics of chain polymerization

Copolymerization; Q-e scheme, Frontier orbital analysis of copolymerization, Step copolymerization

Ionic (Chain) Polymerization; Descriptive chemistry, Kinetics, Energetics, Commercial applications

Anionic polymerization

Living polymerization; MW, Kinetics, Block copolymers

Metathesis polymerization

Carbonyl polymerization

Living radical chain polymerization

Stereochemistry of polymerization; Stereochemistry of ionic chain polymerizations (Zieglar Natta; single-site catalysts)

Network step polymerization (cross-linking)

Polysiloxanes (silicones) and other crosslinked polymers

Crosslinking technology

Emulsion polymerization

Polymer additives

Thermal and Photochemical Degradation of Polymers

Polymer processing; Fabrication methods

Spectroscopic methods of polymer analysis


Polymer Synthesis and Characterization Laboratory (Lab)

This laboratory section of the polymer courses focuses on hands-on synthesis, manipulation, formulation and characterization of polymers. The students spend the first half of the lab course synthesizing polymers and learning the characterization tools available at UO.

In the second half of the course, the students use these skills to make polymers with varying physical properties by exploring the effects of plasticizers, additives and dyes on polymer properties. The students also develop a characterization strategy to prove their polymers meet pre-assigned specifications.

Bulk polymerization of styrene with dibenzoyl peroxide (effect of initiator concentration)

Preparation and Characterization of a Linear Polyurethane

Chemical Recycling of Coke Bottles

Introducing Plastics in the Laboratory: Effects of plasticizers, fillers and dyes on the physical properties of polymers (including new phenol/formaldehyde and polyester polymers)

Preparation of Poly(vinyl acetate) Glues


Physical and Mechanical Properties; Introduction to Processing (Lecture and Labs)

In the processing class students will be introduced to the major plastic molding processes. These include extrusion, injection molding, thermoforming, mixing and others. There will be discussion of the internal workings of current process equipment in detail, and the necessary properties that polymers must exhibit for each process. A vigorous hands on approach to thermal and mechanical analytical techniques will take place.

Basics: Macromolecular concept, Mol Wt, MWD, mol conformation, mol configuration, morphology, diffusion, time dependence, temperature dependence

Thermoplastics: amorphous polymers, crystalline polymers, nature of crystallinity

Thermosets, photopolymers

Elastomers, rubber elasticity

Thermal Analysis Methods: DTA, DSC, TGA, DMA

Polymer transitions, cure optimization, stability, processing-property relationships

Processing methods: injection molding, injection blow molding, extrusion, film blowing, extrusion blow molding, thermoforming(vacuum forming), calandering, compression molding, resin transfer molding, pultrusion, autoclave molding, filament winding

Melt rheology, non-Newtonian fluids, melt elasticity and die swell

Composites and blends

Thermoset liquid crystal polymers


Rapid prototyping

Polymer Thermal, Molecular, and Rheological Characterization (Lecture and Labs)

Plastics in Daily Life - plastics recycling and commodity plastics – identification of uses and recycling processes. Emphasis on social and environmental issues, such as the questions on the toxicity (or not) of plastics; the leaching of plasticizers from PVC and bispenol-A from polycarbonate (PC); and the reasons certain plastics are used in certain applications. Goal is an educated public.

Dilute Solution Properties and Characterization of Polymers; dilute, semi-dilute, and concentrated solution behaviors; molecular weight and molecular weight distribution concepts; capillary viscometry (IV), Mark-Houwink-Sakurada equation, Huggins Equation; light scattering and SEC/GPC), gels and gelation phenomena, hydrogels, sol-gel phase diagrams and characterization of gel properties

Rheology (molecular approach); Viscous (non-Newtonian) and Viscoelastic fluid behaviors, reptation theory and scaling concepts in polymer rheology, entanglement concept in polymer rheology

Rheological Characterization of Viscous and Viscoelastic Fluids and Gels; Capillary extrusion of polymer melts, melt Flow index measurements, steady shear rotational rheometry, dynamic oscillatory shear rheometry, relationship between steady shear and dynamic properties of fluids, extensional flow of dilute polymer solutions

Polymer Processing; extrusion and extruded film line, injection molding, blow molding, blown film, fiber spinning, calendaring, coating processes

Advanced Lab

The purpose of these final labs is to provide complex industrial projects/challenges for the class as whole to solve without guidance from faculty or staff. Each student in the class is responsible for understanding, in detail, the components of all the projects but it will be up to the class to break up the necessary work to get each task accomplished. Each morning students will hold meetings (PowerPoint) to review findings and plan future work. In 2009 students were provided all of the following projects and were given three weeks to complete all of them; replace PVC used for toys with PLA, duplicating the final thermal and mechanical properties as well as processing; formulate two fully dense polyurethanes using the same group of raw materials, one that has high rebound and abrasion resistance (skateboard wheel) and one that has little or no rebound (vibration dampening) but solid structural integrity (support heavy loads); Clear coat, 2-part epoxy for commercial applications; Incorporate common oils (linseed, Olive or Soybean) into car tire rubber formulations, maintaining thermal and mechanical properties.

Text and Reference Books

Polymer Synthesis and Characterization; Stanley Sandler; Wolf Karo; Jo-Anne Bonesteell; Eli Pearce

Polymer Processing Fundamentals; Tim A. Osswald

Mechanical Properties of Polymers and Composites; L.E. Nielsen and R.F. Landel, Marcel Dekker

Principles of Polymerization; G. Odian

Introduction to Physical Polymer Science; L.H. Sperling


Faculty & Instructors

David R. Tyler, UO Department of Chemistry: B.S., Purdue University, 1975. Ph.D., California Institute of Technology, 1979 (Harry Gray). At Oregon since 1985.

Darren W. Johnson, UO Department of Chemistry, B.S., University of Texas, Austin, 1996. Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2000 (Kenneth N. Raymond). Postdoctoral: The Scripps Research Institute, 2001-03 (Julius Rebek, Jr.). At Oregon since 2003.

Willie E. "Skip" Rochefort, Oregon State University, School of Chemical Biological & Environmental Engineering: B.S. University of Massachusetts, 1976. M.S., Northwestern University, 1978. Ph.D., University of California at San Diego, 1986. At OSU since 1993.

Casey E. Check, University of Oregon, Director - CAMCOR Polymer Characterization Laboratory; B.S., Pennsylvania State Univeristy, 2001, Materials Science and Engineering (Polymer Science and Engineering);  Ph.D., Case Western Reserve University, 2011, Macromolecular Science and Engineering (Morton H. Litt);  Postdoctoral: Case Western Reserve University, 2011 (Morton H. Litt), University of Oregon, 2012-15 (Richard Chartoff). At Oregon since 2012.