Future of Plastics - University of Houston
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The Future of Plastics: Designed Sustainability Or Recycling

Thursday, November 7th
6:00 PM



The production and use of plastics has defined the modern era and since the early 1950s they have substantially grown to be the material of choice in diverse applications. The production of plastics was projected to grow by a factor of five over the next twenty five years and the chemicals industry has been preparing for this by expanding production facilities worldwide. However, most plastics have their origins in fossil based oil and gas and they have increasingly come under public scrutiny because of the preponderance of single use plastics in consumer products, their poor recycling rates (less than 10% globally) and their high-profile observation in unexpected parts of the ecosystem due to their improper disposal. The future of plastics is being formulated and issues of designed-in sustainability, bio-based replacements, and improved recycling are at the core and will be discussed in this symposium.

Symposium Moderator

Image of Dr. Megan Robertson

Dr. Megan Robertson

Associate Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Houston

Dr. Megan Robertson is associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Houston, where she also is associate director of the International Polymers and Soft Matter Consortium. Her research focuses on developing polymeric materials with enhanced physical properties and function, with an emphasis on sustainable polymers. That includes plastics derived from renewable resources, longer-lasting polymers and new end-of-life options for polymers.

Dr. Robertson received her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, worked as a senior scientist at Rohm and Haas and completed a postdoctoral research appointment at the University of Minnesota before joining the faculty of the University of Houston in 2010.

Symposium Speakers

Image of Nichole Fitzgerald

Dr. Nichole Fitzgerald

Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) Technology Manager, U.S. Department of Energy

Dr. Nichole Fitzgerald is a technology manager in the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) at the U.S. Department of Energy. She manages R&D projects in BETO’s Conversion Program, focused on designing bio-based plastics and bio-based recycling.

Her projects include ChemCatBio, a research consortium focused on catalysis for bioenergy applications, BioESep, a national lab-led consortium on separations for bioenergy, and the Performance Advantaged BioProducts working group, which works on bio-based products with novel properties.

Dr. Fitzgerald previously served as an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at BETO and was a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. She received her Ph.D. in chemistry from Stanford University and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the College of William and Mary.

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Jill Martin

Global Sustainability Fellow, Dow Chemical Company

Jill Martin is a global sustainability fellow at the Dow Chemical Company. For the past 25 years, she has served in both research and development and technical service and development in the performance plastics field.

Martin is a member of the Michigan State University and California Polytechnic State University Packaging Advisory Boards, as well as serving on the ISTA Global Advisory Board.

She received her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and a Ph.D. in polymer engineering and science from Case Western Reserve University, where her research focused on structure/property relationships in polyethylenes, a field she has continued to work in during her career with Dow.

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Dr. Ganesh Nagarajan

Associate Director for Polymers Business Development and Projects, LyondellBasell Industries

Dr. Ganesh Nagarajan has spent 25 years in the polymer industry and is currently associate director for polymers business development and projects at LyondellBasell Industries.

He has held a variety of positions throughout the company and its predecessor companies, including application development, sales, marketing and management. He also previously served as sales and marketing manager for the company in Hong Kong and managing director of its polypropylene compounding operations in India.

Dr. Nagarajan has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Clarkson University and an executive MBA from the Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics at the University of Delaware.

Image of Susannah Scott

Dr. Susannah Scott

Distinguished Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara

Dr. Susannah Scott designs catalysts for efficient chemical manufacturing, including polymerization, and for environmental protection, including emissions after-treatment and polymer upcycling.

She is a Distinguished Professor and holds the Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Chair in Sustainable Catalysis at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with joint appointments to the departments of chemical engineering and chemistry and biochemistry. She also leads the university’s Mellichamp Initiative in Sustainable Materials and Product Design.

Dr. Scott earned a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from Iowa State University and served as a NATO Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institut de recherches sur la catalyse (CNRS) in Lyon, France, and later joined the faculty of the University of Ottawa.