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UND graduates its first doctorate in chemical engineering Dec. 14

Posted on 12/14/2012

Hai Wang
Hai Wang will walk across the stage for winter commencement 2012 with something really special: University of North Dakota's first doctorate degree in chemical engineering today a 10 a.m. during a ceremony for Graduate and Professional degree candidates at the Chester Fritz Auditorium.

"This is a really big day for me," said Wang, a native of Dalian, a large peninsular city by the sea, east of Beijing. "I was very excited to come to UND because of its reputation in chemical engineering, and I found exactly what I was looking for in my area of interest: polymer materials science, that is, plastics derived from bio-materials."

Wang, who plays a lot of soccer during the warm season, says it was UND's academic and research reputation that attracted him to the program.

"And it's still very true that the United State leads the world in research, and you have very attractive programs, such as UND's chemical engineering (part of the College of Engineering and Mines)," said Wang, who got his first degree in polymer materials science in China after studying a lot of math in high school.

Wang's advisor, UND chemical engineering faculty member Edward Kolodka, a polymer expert, helped him focus on extracting polymers--or plastics--from bio sources, such as the process used at UND to crack crop oils.

"This is pioneering research--there is very little literature about it, so we know no one else has done this before. We're blazing a new trail," Wang said. "We want to turn these plastics into useful materials--such as foam cups or hockey gloves--but right now it's still all experimental."

Wang--whose doctoral dissertation is titled "Study of vinyl ester copolymers derived from bio-source fatty acids"--said chemical engineering research could take him anywhere in the world as he applies for post-doctoral programs.

"But I got a U.S. State Department permit--the Optional Practical Training, or OPT program--to stay here," said Wang, who plays football indoors at the Wellness Center when the weather gets cold.

The UND Chemical Engineering Department's research priorities include renewable and sustainable energy and renewable materials and chemicals. Wang's advisor, Edward Kolodka, specialized in polymer engineering, including polymeric solar cells.

More than 800 UND students are eligible to receive their degrees during this year's winter commencement, which will be broken up into two ceremonies. Graduate and professional degrees will be conferred at 10 .m., at the Chester Fritz Auditorium. The undergraduate ceremony, which will comprise more than 600 students eligible to graduate, is set for 2 p.m., in the same location.

Also, David Nething, retired North Dakota legislator, will receive his honorary degree during the graduate and professional degrees ceremony, while Hiram Drache, professor emeritus, Concordia College in Moorhead, will receive his degree during the undergraduate ceremony.


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