Kevin McNay was introduced to the amazing world of polymers in a PSU summer camp, “Plastic is Fantastic,” in eighth grade.

Five years later, he returned to PSU to attend one of the top collegiate polymer programs in the nation, where he had access to an industry-endorsed Plastics Engineering Technology program, a renowned Polymer Chemistry undergraduate and graduate program, and a professional research laboratory.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in December, he began the graduate-level Polymer Chemistry program. He works as a research assistant at PSU’s Kansas Polymer Research Center, an internationally recognized center for chemistry and materials science.

“My undergraduate degree has given me the hands-on skills I need for the industry,” said McNay. “I know how an injection molding machine works. I know the problems that could arise. But now that I’m going into polymer chemistry, I’ll be able to understand the plastic itself.”

Jeanne Norton, a research scientist and assistant professor with whom McNay works, described the KPRC as a “world-class research center.”

The KPRC has secured dozens of patents for its research and is the only university research laboratory in Kansas to have earned the prestigious Presidential Green Chemistry Award. Industrial partners include corporate giants like Honeywell, Ford Motor Company, and Cargill.

The fact that this level of academic and research prowess is located in Pittsburg, Kansas might surprise some – but not McNay.

“I knew from that moment in camp that this was what I wanted to do,” said McNay. “How lucky am I? I have one of the best schools in the nation in my backyard.”