Fostering next-gen polymer researchers


Fifty-eight students from seven public high schools in Akron are getting a jump start on their college education this summer through the nation's only precollege polymer science and engineering program for high school students.

Upward Bound student Jaremy Hatler, a Kenmore High School senior, prepares to heat oil under constant stirring to maintain a consistent temperature during experimentation.

The UA Upward Bound Math and Science (UBMS) program includes a six-week intensive summer program, academic activities during the school year and a program after high school graduation to ease into college life.
UBMS students live on campus while they attend classes in polymer science, chemistry, mathematics, English literature and composition, a foreign language, computer lab and engineering.

Students gain hands-on experience

John Vesalo, the University's UBMS coordinator, explains what makes Akron's program so relevant. "As much as 80 percent of everything we come in contact with daily has a basic polymeric structure. Polymers are everywhere," he says. "Students in the program not only perform polymer research, but also take classes at Akron, gain hands-on experience working with faculty in their labs, and go on educational field trips."
Such Upward Bound experiences have helped inspire 52 percent of the program's participants to attend UA after high school during the past 12 years. Those who opt to pursue an academic career in polymer science or polymer engineering at UA can expect a near 100 percent chance of landing a job in their field upon graduation.
Kenmore High School senior Jaremy Hatler, a second-year UBMS participant, credits the program with helping him get a head start on college. Although he is just 17, Hatler is one credit away from being a UA sophomore due to his postsecondary opportunities. Hatler homeschooled himself from fifth to eighth grade, and realized his talents early.
“I was self-motivated and focused on my favorite subjects, math and science,” says Hatler, who received a score of 33 on his ACT.
In ninth grade Hatler began attending Kenmore High School, where his teachers noticed him excelling in all of his courses. A school counselor told him about UBMS and urged him to apply.

Making the most of opportunities

Following his participation in UBMS during the summer of his junior high school year, Hatler received an opportunity to participate in Project SEED, a student-mentor partnership offered through the American Chemical Society (Akron Section) at UA. Students in Project SEED gain real-world knowledge of polymer research by assisting UA's polymer engineering and polymer science faculty members with their research while earning a stipend of $2,500.
As a student in both Project SEED and UBMS, Halter is conducting research for Dr. Abraham Joy, assistant professor of polymer science, and graduate student John Swanson. Hatler is modifying everyday oils to form polymer-like materials for possible biomedical applications, such as a medium for cell growth.
Hatler says the UBMS program has helped him achieve academic success. "The UBMS program helped me with becoming a postsecondary student and making it into the Honors Academy for Postsecondary Students." 
Hatler plans to pursue degrees in both electrical engineering and computer science, and hopes to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology after graduating from high school in May 2013.
For more information, visit  the UBMS program online.

About Upward Bound Math Science

The Upward Bound Math Science Program at The University of Akron is funded through a five-year grant provided by the U.S. Department of Education. The currentfive-year cycle began on October 1, 2008. The yearly amount awarded is $297,034 and total five-year award is $1,485,170.

About The University of Akron

The University of Akron offers more than 300 associate, bachelor's, master's, doctorate and law degree programs – with accreditations by 35 professional agencies. With nearly 30,000 students and $46.7 million in sponsored research awards, UA is among the nation's strongest public universities focused on innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment in community and economic growth. Listed by Princeton Review as among the "Best in the Midwest" in Best Colleges: Region-by-Region, programs are targeted to diverse groups of learners, including full-time, part-time and online students, veterans and adults returning to the classroom. The distinctive Akron Experience enhances postgraduate success through internships and co-ops, academic research (both undergraduate and graduate), study abroad, on-campus student employment and service projects.

 Story by Nikita Lero.

Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or