The MIT Program in Polymers and Soft Matter (PPSM), originally founded in 1986 as the Program in Polymer Science and Technology (PPST) then renamed in 2014, was created in recognition of the belief that leaders in the polymer community require a thorough appreciation of the chemistry and physics of macromolecules and biopolymers, engineering structure/property/processing relations, and the wide variety of mathematical concepts and experimental techniques that support the development of these areas of intellectual activity.
Polymer research activities at MIT originated in the 1920’s and the 1930’s as faculty members of the traditional academic departments directed their attention to the exciting advances in polymer technology which were occurring in industry during that period of time. Based on these research interests and complimentary teaching activities, various departments have developed and continue to maintain strong educational programs in polymers which provide a disciplinary view of the field.
The Program in Polymers and Soft Matter represents a complementary interdepartmental program whose educational and research missions cut across departmental boundaries.
PPSM is administered by the faculty of five participating departments in MIT’s School of Science and School of Engineering where research and education in polymer science and technology is prominent. These five home departments for PPSM students are: Biological Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, and Mechanical Engineering. Admission to the Program is achieved via successful application to one of the participating departments, noting interest in PPSM. PPSM does not admit students to MIT.
PPSM is intended for students who have made a clear commitment to a PhD or ScD degree in the field of polymers, and who wish to engage in a broad-based academic program and develop a strong command of the full range of concepts which make the broad, interdisciplinary field of polymers rich in intellectual challenges and technological opportunities. It is open to qualified students admitted to the graduate program of any five participating home departments at MIT (see Admission Requirements). It consists of an initial academic phase in which all students participate, regardless of previous background and research interests, followed by a written and oral doctoral qualifying exam and research in a selected area of specialization. The program leads to the Doctoral degree; if desired, a Masters degree can be obtained through the admitting department.
The core curriculum, taken by all PPSM students, provides a common foundation in the field of polymers. It is broad and rigorous and covers both elementary and advanced subjects, on topics ranging from the molecular level to the continuum. In addition to the core, a departmental Minor is also required, typically consisting of graduate level subjects in the student’s admitting department. The faculty of PPSM believe that a strong background in one of the traditional disciplines of Science or Engineering is a prerequisite for excellence in polymer science and technology.
The transition from the core academic phase to research is marked by the PPSM qualifying exam which consists of oral and written examinations offered at the end of each Spring term. Successful completion of the exam leads to selection of a research project and the preparation of a thesis proposal. Completion of the thesis, the departmental minor program, and a successful defense of the thesis before PPSM and departmental faculty, then complete the requirements for the Doctoral degree which is obtained from the student’s home department.
It is expected that PPSM students will continue their coursework after the first year, although with fewer subjects per term as their research projects progress. A program of auxiliary subjects is developed in consultation with the student’s doctoral advisor and thesis committee, which serves as an academic oversight body with regard to both research and course work performance
The Polymer Seminar Series run by PPSM brings invited speakers from industry and academia into contact with the MIT community, as well as offering research updates by MIT faculty and students. PPSM provides a focal point for all polymer related activities at the Institute.