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Byron Christmas, chemistry professor at the University of Houston-Downtown, is working to teach the next generation of chemists the importance of a not-so-popular field, polymer chemistry.
"I have spent my entire career in polymer chemistry, but never took a course in it during school," Christmas said. "It's been neglected in academia because it's a very real world, practical discipline."
Polymer chemistry deals with the chemical properties and synthesis of macromolecules, found in everything from living organisms to plastics. Christmas believes so strongly in the discipline that he started the UHD Center for Applied Polymer Science Research in 1994 with a mission to provide undergraduate students with the ability to study polymer science, particularly ultraviolet polymerization technology.
"The UV polymerization process is growingly rapidly because it's a green technology and energy efficient," Christmas said. "It's all around us in every fiber optic, on parquet floors and even some beer cans."
Christmas is also the coordinator for UHD's chemistry program. He considers this program unconventional because of the close ties he has with the industry that allow him to procure supplies and materials. He worked in the industry as a polymer chemist for nearly 14 years before joining UHD, which he says helps him bridge the gap between it and academia.
But despite his research interests and academic responsibilities, his primary focus is on the students.
"Students can inspire you," he said. "They show amazing motivation and leadership in class, which helps make this program immensely successful."
Christmas has been awarded numerous awards and distinctions for his dedication to teaching including the 1997 UHD Award for Excellence in Teaching, the 2003 UHD Success Builder award and Who's Who Among America's Teachers 2000, 2002 and 2005.
"I am always at my best when I'm teaching," Christmas said. "I'm a teacher at heart."
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Last updated or reviewed on 2/24/12