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The Michael M. Szwarc Polymer Research Institute (PRI)


Contacting the Institute

Michael M. Szwarc Polymer Research Institute
ESF Department of Chemistry
Jahn Laboratory
1 Forestry Drive
Syracuse, NY 13210
(315) 470-6855
(315) 470-6856 (fax)

Ivan Gitsov
Professor and Director
Polymer Research Institute

Mission and Objectives

The Michael M. Szwarc Polymer Research Institute is a consortium of associate members drawn from several organizations and institutions. It was established to promote the advancement of polymer science through education and research, coordinate diversified activities of polymer scientists and engineers in the Central New York area, and develop strong cooperative programs with polymer-based industries nationwide. Among its activities are sponsorship of new educational and research ventures, encouragement of individual and cooperative research programs, participation in academic programs leading to the B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, and promotion of continuing education and new developmental opportunities for scientists. The Institute will engage in all other activities necessary to maintain itself as a center of excellence in polymer science and engineering.

History and Background

The establishment of a polymer science teaching and research program at the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry dates back to the early years of the 1950's. At this time, it had been one of the two academic institutions in the United States that offered a graduate program -- leading to a Ph.D. degree -- in polymer science. The program came at an opportune time because of an increased national demand for polymer scientists. Few schools made any effort to fill this need. In the middle sixties, the Syracuse program had as many as 55 graduate students and many postdoctoral scientists in polymer and cellulose chemistry.

Israel Cabasso, 1942 - 2014

The ESF community mourns the passing of Professor Israel Cabasso, a polymer chemist who was an internationally renowned researcher.

Professor Cabasso died Dec. 2 after becoming ill during a trip to visit family in Cleveland, Ohio.

Professor Cabasso received his B.S. in chemistry and physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and his Ph.D. in polymer chemistry from the Weizmann Institute in Israel.

He joined the ESF faculty in 1980 as director of the Polymer Research Institute. Professor Cabasso’s research covered a broad spectrum of polymer membrane science and technology, but he was especially active in work with reverse osmosis technology and battery separators, applied electrochemistry and fuel cells. 

He received millions of dollars in research funding from agencies that included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, NASA, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy and others. He held 25 patents for his discoveries. Some of these patents are currently in use worldwide.

Professor Cabasso was a prolific scientist with more than 135 publications. He held an Honorable Ph. D. from the Israel Academy of Sciences, received the American Chemical Society Section Award and held the position of professor in the Chinese Academy of Sciences. 

Professor Cabasso asked his students to be curious and honest researchers, but more importantly to be critical and independent thinkers. Many of them went on to distinguished professional careers.

The students, faculty and staff of ESF extend their sympathies to Professor Cabasso’s wife, Youxin Yuan, his current and former graduate students and his many friends and collaborators.

Polymers are the building blocks of living systems and the early research on cellulose chemistry sparked a substantial growth in research towards synthetic polymers. This, in turn, resulted in the development of many Aplastics@ and other polymeric materials and also stimulated research into the structure and properties of more complex biological macromolecules such as proteins, enzymes, and DNA. The direct outcome of the State University of New York initiative to provide a program in polymer research and education, is that many graduates of this program now have leading faculty positions in academic institutions in the United States and abroad or hold important managerial positions in polymer-related industries.

The ever-expanding application of polymer products in recent years lead to the fact that about 70% of all chemistry and chemical engineering graduates will be engaged in polymer research and development in their careers in one way or another. Therefore, the need for polymer scientists and technologists (as is demonstrated by the abundance of job opportunities and high salaries in this field). The economic advantages of polymer-based industries have prompted, in the 80's, many universities to establish polymer science programs. The State University of New York (SUNY) recognized the achievements of the polymer program at ESF and established, in 1966, the State University Polymer Research Center under the directorship of the famed Prof. Michael Szwarc. Under his leadership, the program flourished in the later 60's and early 70's. Scientists from around the world engaged in the center’s research activities, and the accomplishments of its staff have been documented in over 1500 scientific publications.

Presently, the Polymer Research Institute (PRI) is comprised of faculty members of SUNY-ESF, SUNY-Albany, Syracuse University, as well as members from industry. Members of the Chemistry Department at ESF administer the Institute, where an intensive curriculum of polymer science for undergraduate, as well as graduate students (M.S., Ph.D.) is provided. All the students in the polymer program participate actively in the research projects that are interwoven with the academic programs.

Research Topics

  • Living polymers, anionic polymerization and electron transfer initiation
  • Development and studies of crown ether polymers
  • Polyelectrolyte complexes
  • Polycondensation polymers and monomers
  • Polymer modifications (via grafting pendant moiety on the chain)
  • Polymeric crystalline alloy-membrane

    Polyaromatic Conductive Polymer

  • Polymers containing phosphoryl and other organophosphorous groups
  • Stress-induced crystallization
  • Crystalline structure of polymers
  • Computer-aided prediction of crystalline and solid state structure
  • X-ray electron diffraction analysis
  • Statistical mechanics of polymers
  • Rubber elasticity and thermoelasticity
  • Polymer alloys, blends and interpenetrating networks
  • Ultrastructure of polymer networks
  • Polymer membranes (reverse osmosis, dialysis, ion transport, gas permeation and other modes of separations)
  • Chemical synthesis and properties of polysaccharides of biomedical interest
  • Colloid chemistry of paper making science
  • Cellulose and wood science
  • Wood-plastic materials
  • Solid-state theology
  • Nanoparticles
  • Carbon
  • Electrochemistry and electrochemical synthesis
  • Fuel cells and electrodes
  • Batteries
  • Polymer-colloid interactions
  • Flow-induced effects on phase diagrams
  • Membrane Research and Development
  • Reverse osmosis membranes
  • Ultrafiltration
  • Gas separation composite membranes
  • Ion-exchange membrane (thin layer) and H.F.
  • Bi-polar membranes
  • Liquid membranes
  • Conductive polymer membranes
  • Fuel cells and electrodes

General Courses in Polymer Science at Graduate and Undergraduate Levels

  • FCH 550 Introduction to Polymer Science I
  • FCH 551 Polymer Techniques
  • FCH 552 Introduction to Polymer Science II
  • FCH 650 Statistical Physics and Chemistry of Macromolecules
  • PSE 465 Fiber and Paper Properties
  • FCH 796 Contemporary Topics in Polymer Science
    • Biomass Chemistry
    • Membrane Science and Technology

Participating Faculty Roster

Participating Faculty Email Address
Caluwe, Paul M.
Professor of Polymer Chemistry
pmcaluwe@syr.edu SUNY-ESF
1 Forestry Drive
Syracuse NY 13210
Chatterjee, Avik P.
Associate Professor of Polymer Chemistry
apchatte@syr.edu SUNY-ESF
1 Forestry Drive
Syracuse NY 13210
Fearon, Gordon
Adjunct Professor, SUNY-ESF
fearon@freeway.net Vice-President
Dow Corning
2200 Salzburg Road,
Auburn, MI 48611
Gitsov, Ivan
Professor and Director Polymer Research Institute
igivanov@syr.edu SUNY-ESF
1 Forestry Drive
Syracuse NY 13210
Graiver, Daniel
Adjunct Professor, SUNY-ESF
d.graiver@dowcorning.com Dow Corning
2200 Salzburg Road,
Auburn, MI 48611
George C. Martin
Professor of Chemical Engineering
gcmartin@syr.edu Syracuse University
320 Hinds Hall
Syracuse, NY 13210
Gyu Leem
Assisant Professor
gyleem@esf.edu SUNY-ESF
217 Jahn Lab,
Syracuse NY 13210
Rawls, Ralph
Professor of Biomaterials
RAWLS@uthscsa.edu University of Texas Healh Science Center at San Antonio
7703 Floyd Curl Drive
San Antonio, TX 78284-7890
Sarko, Anatole
Professor (Emeritus of Polymer and Physical Chemistry)
asarko@syr.edu SUNY-ESF
1 Forestry Drive
Syracuse NY 13210
Smid, Johannes
Professor of Polymer Chemistry, SUNY-ESF
jsmid@syr.edu SUNY-ESF
1 Forestry Drive
Syracuse NY 13210
Smith, Leonard
Associate Professor of Wood Products Engineering
lasmith@esf.edu SUNY-ESF
1 Forestry Drive
Syracuse NY 13210
Stern, S. Alexander
Distinguished Research Professor of Chemical Engineering, Syracuse University
SASTERNOU@aol.com 34-36 Quai de Dion-Bouton
Bellerive 1
92800 Puteaux, France
Stipanovic, Arthur J.
Professor, Polymer Chemistry
astipano@esf.edu SUNY-ESF
1 Forestry Drive
Syracuse NY 13210
Yuan Youxin
Senior Research Associate, Department of Polymer Chemistry
yxyuan@syr.edu SUNY-ESF
1 Forestry Drive
Syracuse NY 13210

Comments and Corrections to igivanov@syr.edu