Mississippi professor makes “Forbes 30 Under 30” list

Published 5:35 am Friday, January 21, 2022

Dr. Zhe Qiang, assistant professor at The University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Polymer Science and Engineering, has been named to Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30 in Science list for 2022.

Among innovators who are making waves in their respective fields, Dr. Qiang is developing sustainable solutions for plastic waste and trying to find ways to improve chemical circularity through addressing several urgent environmental challenges, such as plastic waste management, water pollution, and climate change.

Dr. Qiang celebrates this prestigious honor by praising his students for their hard work and impactful contributions, as his research lab aims to scale-up and commercialize relevant technologies.

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“This recognition reflects all the hard work my students put in over the past two years, even though we had to establish a new lab during the pandemic. It also motivates our current efforts to scale-up and commercialize relevant technologies, so that hopefully we can solve some practical needs in the very near future,” said Dr. Qiang.

“This milestone wouldn’t be possible without the support I receive from my colleagues at the University. Let me just put it this way, I feel very fortunate and grateful for having a research career at USM.”

The Forbes 30 Under 30 in Science list was created using nominations from a variety of sources. The judges for this category were Maddie Hall, cofounder & CEO of Living Carbon and an alumna of the 2021 Under 30 list; Peter Beck, founder & CEO of Rocket Lab; Eric Green, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute; and Véronique Lecault, founder & COO of AbCellera.

Dr. Derek Patton, Director of the School of Polymer Science and Engineering, describes Dr. Qiang as a “bright, bold, and creative polymer engineer,” whose innovative research brings a lot of excitement and recognition to the program, due to its societal impacts.

“Dr. Qiang’s selection for the Forbes 30 Under 30 list demonstrates that he is a leader and an innovator who is defining new ideas and directions to help mitigate the challenges with plastic waste,” said Dr. Patton. “His work on conversion of plastic waste to carbonaceous materials is exciting because it bridges fundamental polymer science and engineering with real-world applications and societal impacts. The fact that Dr. Qiang rose to the top as one of the thousands of nominees for the Forbes list is no surprise — it perfectly aligns with the ‘To The Top’ tradition here USM.”

Prior to his current position, Dr. Qiang performed his postdoctoral training in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Northwestern University. His research interests include self-assembly and interfacial phenomenon, particularly focusing on understanding the relationship between microscopic morphology of polymeric materials and their macroscopic properties. These interests bridge a variety of topics from in-situ single-molecule characterization to large-scale roll-to-roll manufacturing of mesoporous materials for energy applications.

His research work has been recognized with several awards and honors from national societies such as a Frank Padden Award Finalist from the American Physical Society.