Polymer Characterization of Plastic Debris from the Central Pacific, Presented by Kathryn L. Beers, PhD., NIST


Group Leader, Polymers and Complex Fluids Group, Materials Science and Engineering Division




Identification of ocean debris is one focus area of an emerging Circular Economy program at NIST that includes a new network of academic centers dedicated to plastics recycling technology and training. This talk will provide a brief overview of NIST’s role and capabilities, and then focus on early work facilitating the development of PCA tools for FT-IR through more explicit identification of samples via high throughput, multi-detection size exclusion chromatography. Results of preliminary investigations of surface degradation and other possible marine exposure effects will also be presented.


Until recently Kate was Leader of the Polymers and Complex Fluids Group in the Materials Science and Engineering Division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  The Group she led has projects spanning macromolecular characterization, polyelectrolyte solutions and gels, carbon nanotube separations and emulsions and suspensions.  Her new role at NIST is as a program developer for the Circular Economy at NIST, where she is engaging the campus in activities related to plastics recycling, new materials design, and environmental impacts of plastic waste.  Past research as included combinatorial and high throughput polymer synthesis, microfluidic flow reactors, copolymerization kinetics, surface-grafted polymers, sustainable polymers, precision polyolefins and densely grafted ‘bottlebrush’ polymers and networks.  She has been recognized with the President’s Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (PECASE), the Arthur S. Flemming Award, the CMU Alumni Achievement Award and as a Fellow of the American Chemical Society.  She is a former Chair of the ACS Polymer Chemistry Division and spent a year in science policy as the Assistant Director for Physical Sciences and Engineering in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in the Executive Office of the President.


Kate earned a BS in chemistry with high honors from The College of William and Mary and MS and PhD degrees in polymer science and chemistry, respectively, from Carnegie Mellon University. 


You can find some of her publications on the NIST