Detroit — Sindee Simon, who chairs the chemical engineering department at Texas Tech University — and became the first woman to win the Society of Plastics Engineers' top honor, the International Award — said she always planned to be an academic and teach bright young people.
But she said her father was her inspiration. And he had some advice.
"I knew I wanted to be an academic all my life, and he told me, 'You need to work first before you get your Ph.D.,'" Simon recalled in her keynote speech at Antec, the annual SPE conference, held in Detroit.
After she got her bachelor's degree from Yale University in 1983, she worked at Beech Aircraft Corp.'s carbon-fiber composite Starship, the groundbreaking civilian aircraft. That was her introduction to plastics, she said.
Then she went on Princeton University and earned that Ph.D. in chemical engineering. She said graduate work for Princeton professor John Gillham was important for her knowledge of polymers and composites.
Simon later joined the chemical engineering faculty at Texas Tech. She became chair of the department in 2012.
Simon said her research has been centered on three areas: glass transition and structural recovery, thermoset cure and developing of properties during cure, polymer properties and synthesis on the nanoscale.
She devoted most of her speech on the issue of the glass transition point and crystallization. How fast the material is cooled is very important, Simon said.
Brittleness can cause problems, even premature failure when parts age, she said.
"What you don't want is your airplane wing that's made out of an epoxy glass to become brittle and after 15 years of flying, then that starts cracking," she said.
SPE's International Award is the highest annual individual award in the plastics industry.
Simon discussed two properties, those of volume and the term of thermodynamics, enthalpy. She described laboratory tests of long-term aging for composites.
She also addressed nano-thin films, giving technical details.