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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Ford scientist to lead polymer engineering program at URI
Serves as Victor Baxt Endowed Chair of Polymer Engineering

KINGSTON, R.I. -- February 11, 2002 -- When Teknor Apex vice chairman Victor Baxt donated $1 million to the College of Engineering at the University of Rhode Island in 1998, his goal was to help his alma mater become a leader in the field of polymer engineering, the process used to create plastics.

The University took a major step toward that goal with the recent hiring of Michael Greenfield, a former Ford Motor Company research scientist, to serve as the first Victor J. Baxt Endowed Chair of Polymer Engineering.

"Victor saw a real need for a polymer engineering program in Rhode Island, and his donation will help make it happen," said Thomas Kim, dean of URI’s College of Engineering. "Mike Greenfield has some remarkable achievements to his name, and we see him having a major impact in the College for many years to come."

Originally from Fairport, N.Y. and now living in Providence, Greenfield was collecting an award from the American Chemical Society for his polymer research when he met a chemist at Ford Motor Company. "What does a chemist do at Ford?" Greenfield asked the man. A lot, it turns out.

Greenfield soon began a six-year stint as a chemical engineer at the Ford Research Lab, where he searched for scientific breakthroughs that would help make automobiles more friendly to the environment. Among other projects, he worked on developing alternative air conditioning systems that reduce global warming potential and studied transmission fluid additives that reduce friction and increase fuel efficiency.

While working at Ford, Greenfield taught a graduate level course in polymer engineering at Wayne State University and realized how much he enjoyed teaching.

"I really like explaining things," he said. "I get a great deal of satisfaction when someone has that little light bulb go on in their head, when they really get it. And I like making analogies – that’s something my students will pick up on – because it helps make ideas accessible. I think it’s important to understand the big picture in order to understand how the details fit together and why they’re important."

Besides teaching courses in polymer engineering, Greenfield will coordinate the polymer program at URI and pursue his own polymer research.

"There’s lots of polymer research going on here on campus, but it’s just not coordinated all together," he said. "I want to create a forum to bring together everyone who’s involved in polymers so we can interact and learn about the problems each is working on. It will also provide students with a broad perspective of the field."

A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the University of California at Berkeley, Greenfield’s research interest is in the area of additives in lubricants and polymers. He wants to better understand how they enhance the physical properties of a polymer or how they prevent a certain chemical reaction from happening.

"Plasticizers, for instance, are added to polymers to make plastic more flexible," he notes. "On the molecular level, I want to know how the plasticizer functions. That’s one of many questions I’ll be looking into."

For Information: Todd McLeish 874-7892

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