Mexico City — General Motors Co. has joined a master's degree program for designing and developing plastic products in Mexico.
Five women and 10 men from GM's regional design center in Toluca, 40 miles west of Mexico City, are the first students in the course, which lasts four semesters and claims to be unique.
The publicly funded Autonomous University of the State of Mexico (UAEM) launched the program at its Tianguistenco campus in August.
The first semester, now completed, concentrated on design. The second focuses on materials. The third will hone in on processing and the fourth on advances in technology and markets.
"It's a unique program because it operates in cooperation with industry," said Ranganath Shastri, one of two principal course coordinators. His colleague, Raymundo Medina Negrete, is in charge of plastics engineering studies at UAEM and is a former veteran of Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. in Mexico.
Each student, Shastri said, has to be associated with a company that allows him or her to work a full week while also taking the course twice a week.
Instead of presenting a thesis at the end of the program, they complete a project for designing and developing plastic products for any industry, but typically one related to their employer's interests.
GM selected all the projects the students will work on during the course, Shastri told Plastics News at Plastimagen 2019 in early April.
"These are real projects of interest to GM that it wants to commercialize. The majority are projects for vehicle interiors," he said.
Within a week of advertising the program internally, GM had received 70 applications for the 15 places available, said Shastri, a Society of Plastics Engineers fellow and a specialist in product design and development. He runs his own engineering and academic consultancy close to Toluca.
He described the students on the course as "bright and very involved. Some are industrial engineers with experience in aerospace."
UAEM has run the only comprehensive bachelor's degree course in plastics engineering in Mexico for the past decade.
Shastri has a doctorate in materials science at the University of Cincinnati. He has registered 23 patents with U.S. and international bodies. Since 1991, he has been a U.S. delegate to the technical committee for plastics of ISO/TC61.