Q&A with Dr. Judit Puskas

April 21, 2019
Dr. Judit Puskas, Professor

Dr. Judit E. Puskas joinedthe Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering (FABE) at The Ohio State University as a tenured Full Professor in January 2019. Puskas received a PhD in plastics and rubber technology in 1985, and an M. E. Sc in organic and biochemical engineering in 1977, from the Technical University of Budapest, Hungary. Her present interests include the integration of breast reconstruction and cancer research, green polymer chemistry, biomimetic processes and biomaterials, living/controlled polymerizations, polymerization mechanisms and kinetics, thermoplastic elastomers and polymer structure/property relationships, and probing the polymer-bio interface. Puskas has more than 430 publications, is an inventor or co-inventor of 33 U.S. patents and applications, and is the recipient of several awards. Recently, she received the 2017 Charles Goodyear Medal, the most prestigious award given by the Rubber Division of the American Chemical Society.

1. What is your research focus?

My main focus is POLYMERS. This is an umbrella term for both plastics and rubbers, but my main focus is rubbers.

Specifically, I am interested in “Green polymer chemistry”, which aims to make rubbers, plastics, and similar materials using environmentally friendly, or “green,” practices. Some of those practices include minimizing the use of hazardous substances—or not using any at all—and making sure the new materials can be composted after use. This could mean less plastic waste in the oceans and fewer old tires in landfills.

I am also interested in rubbery biomaterials, used in medical devices implanted in the body. Examples are heart stents and silicone breast implants. I am a coinventor on the material used on a drug eluting stent, implanted in over six million people. I am currently developing an innovative way to improve breast reconstruction after cancer surgery. I am also working on polymer-based cancer drugs.

2. What initially got you interested in pursuing this area of research?

My initial interest during my undergraduate studies was very pragmatic. I went to the Dean’s office when we needed to decide on a major and asked: which major has the most job offers and the highest salary? The answer was “POLYMERS”! I have not regretted my choice. Now I can use my knowledge and experience to continue to do research benefitting society and teach the next generation of researchers.

3. What drew you to the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering at The Ohio State University? 

I have been collaborating with Professor Katrina Cornish in research related to domestic natural rubber production – I love her new name for the rubber dandelion that can grow in Ohio – Buckeye Gold! I was also very much interested in the focus on sustainability at OSU and FABE. During my interview I was warmly welcomed by my future colleagues. I also noticed that the department is women-friendly, with almost 30% female faculty! Since my arrival I have had very good experiences – I am very happy at OSU and FABE!

4. What are you most looking forward to in this position?

I am most looking forward to a positive, inclusive environment that fosters collaboration, effective education and friendships.

5. What are your goals for the future/what do you hope to accomplish in this position?

I hope to get two inventions into clinical practice: the new breast reconstruction technology, and polymer-based cancer drugs. I would also like to transfer all my knowledge to the young generation in hope that the can make a difference and will save our Earth from extinction.