Former NASA astronaut to be first presenter in Stoffer Lecture Series

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On October 7, 2016

Dr. Janet L. Kavandi, NASA astronaut and deputy director of NASA's Glenn Research Center, will speak at Missouri S&T commencement ceremonies. She earned a master of science degree in chemistry from Missouri S&T.

Dr. Janet L. Kavandi, NASA astronaut and deputy director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center, will speak at Missouri S&T commencement ceremonies. She earned a master of science degree in chemistry from Missouri S&T. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Dr. Janet L. Kavandi, NASA astronaut and deputy director of NASA's Glenn Research Center, will speak at Missouri S&T commencement ceremonies. She earned a master of science degree in chemistry from Missouri S&T.

Dr. Janet L. Kavandi, NASA astronaut and deputy director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center, will speak at Missouri S&T commencement ceremonies. She earned a master of science degree in chemistry from Missouri S&T. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Dr. Janet L. Kavandi, director of NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, and a Missouri University of Science and Technology graduate, will give the inaugural lecture in the James O. Stoffer Lecture in Chemistry series.

Kavandi’s presentation, titled “NASA’s Future Missions and Current Research Efforts,” will be held at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, in Room G-3 Schrenk Hall on the Missouri S&T campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

The lecture series was established by Dr. James O. Stoffer, Curators’ Distinguished Professor emeritus of chemistry, to give Missouri S&T students the opportunity to learn from eminent scholars and innovators in the field of polymer chemistry and related areas.

“I wanted to let students see what happens when you are successful and show them that they, too, can be successful,” says Stoffer, a pioneer in polymer synthesis who holds 15 patents in various areas of polymer chemistry.

The lecture series was funded through a $50,000 gift from Stoffer. The funds are from royalties from Stoffer’s patent for an environmentally friendly chrome-free paint that is used on all military aircraft. Missouri S&T matched that gift with an additional $50,000 in patent royalties.

“Dr. Stoffer’s gift to establish an endowed lecture series in the department of chemistry will showcase Missouri S&T to our nation’s leaders in research, education and industry who visit as lecturers in the series,” says Dr. Stephen Roberts, dean of the College of Arts, Sciences, and Business at Missouri S&T. “We are thrilled that Dr. Stoffer has made such a valuable gift for the benefit of the entire S&T community. The lecture series is but one of his many contributions that will honor his legacy as a highly respected teacher and researcher at Missouri S&T.”

After earning a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Mount Union College in 1957 and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Purdue University in 1961, Stoffer spent two years at Cornell University before joining the Missouri S&T faculty as an assistant professor in 1963. He was named associate professor in 1966, full professor in 1982 and Curators’ Distinguished Professor in 1998. Following his retirement from teaching in 2000, he was named Curators’ Distinguished Professor emeritus of chemistry.

Stoffer was instrumental to the development of the university’s polymer chemistry program, one of the first in the United States to be accredited by the American Chemical Society. He taught organic and polymer chemistry to generations of young scholars, and was a five-time recipient of the university’s Outstanding Teacher Award and a three-time recipient of the Faculty Excellence Award.

Stoffer served as director of the university’s Materials Research Center from 1992 to 2001. He authored the first scholarly papers on micro-emulsion polymerization, ultrasonically initiated catalyzed polymerization and microwave initiated polymerization. Working with Dr. Thomas J. O’Keefe and their students, his pioneering research led to the development of the first environmentally friendly alternative to the toxic chromium-based anti-corrosion coatings used on military aircraft and on aluminum components in the aerospace industry.

Stoffer selected Kavandi to kick off the lecture series because she was one of his master’s students.

Kavandi is responsible for planning, organizing and directing the activities at the NASA Glenn Research Center, which employs more than 3,200 civil service and support contract employees. The facility is involved in research, technology and systems development that supports the nation’s space propulsion, power and communications, aeronautical propulsion, microgravity sciences, and materials development programs.

Kavandi was selected as a NASA astronaut in December 1994 as a member of the 15th class of U.S. astronauts. During her time in the astronaut office, she supported ISS payload integration, capsule communications and robotics, and served as deputy chief. She is a veteran of three space flights, serving as a mission specialist on STS-91 in 1998, STS-99 in 2000, and STS-104 in 2001. Stoffer and his wife were Kavandi’s guests at Cape Kennedy to witness the lift-off of her first flight into space.

Kavandi has logged more than 33 days in space, traveling more than 13.1 million miles in 535 Earth orbits. Born in Springfield, Missouri, she earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, a master of science degree in chemistry from Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, and a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the University of Washington in Seattle.

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