Kickstart: Katherine Johnson, Perseverance, plastics and space

With all the crazy news that’s been happening here on Earth, I hope you had a chance to celebrate along with the mission control crew on Feb. 18 when the rover Perseverance landed on Mars. (You can see it here, if you missed it.)

While every space project relies on plastics, especially lightweight composites, the Perseverance also carries with it the Ingenuity helicopter, which aims to take the first powered flight on the planet. The Ingenuity must be as light as possible to operate in the thin atmosphere on Mars, so NASA and its collaborators are using Toray Advanced Composites materials for the rotor blades and chassis structure.

And if that’s not enough to celebrate, composites also are playing a part in Northrup Grummun’s Antares rocket and a resupply mission to the International Space Station on board the S.S. Katherine Johnson, named for the NASA mathemetician whose work on manned space flights was part of the movie and book Hidden Figures.

Sadhan Jana, the Benjamin Franklin Goodrich Endowed Chair and a professor at the University of Akron’s School of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering, has been admitted as a Fellow to the Royal Society of Chemistry.

RSC members are eligible to become a fellow if they have been in a senior position for more than five years and their efforts have made an impact in any field of the chemical sciences. The United Kingdom-based RSC provides a framework for members to advance in the field while also providing interdisciplinary collaboration.

“This is a happy moment for me,” Jana said in a news release from the university in Akron, Ohio. “I can count myself in the league of some exciting chemical sciences researchers around the world.”

Jana joined UA in 1998. His research has been used in the development of liners for face masks and solid polymer gel separators for lithium-ion batteries.

Film and sheet maker Spartech LLC has honored 17 employees as members of its 2020 “Circle of Champions,” a program recognizing employees whose contributions have a significant positive impact on the St. Louis-based company.

“We have a lot of people doing great things every day and we want to continue to provide recognition opportunities to celebrate that winning spirit,” President and CEO John Inks said. “We are very proud of our team and they are the reason we provide great resources and services to our valued clients.”

The 2020 Circle of Champions honorees include: Lynsey Anderson, senior HRIS analyst; Krista Botkin, production associate; Suzanne Fenton, senior manager, marketing communications; Keith Holmes, senior plant manager; Bob Kaplar, regional sales manager; Harvey Lam, production operator; Mike Malin, senior product manager; Alberto Martinez, production lead; Dan Miller, senior manager, sales and operations planning; Gary Orenstein, director of sales; Claude Partain, production operator; Trevor Polito, production supervisor; Danny Puran, senior plant manager; Liia Talvet, finance analyst; Prashanthi Yerroju, IT specialist; and Steve Zubke, plant manager.

In addition, the Spartech Executive Team posthumously honored Ken Steele, technology manager, who was confirmed as a Circle of Champions honoree in November.

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