MCGA scholarship awarded to student using corn to create plastics

Center for Sustainable Polymers (CSP) Undergraduate Researcher Quentoria Walton is the recipient of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association Summer Research Fellowship, awarded to a student who has helped advance CSP’s mission to transform how plastics are made.

Entering her junior year at Tuskegee University in Alabama, Walton received the $2,500 scholarship following her participation in CSP’s summer undergraduate research program. In the program, she worked on a research project that uses sugar from renewable sources like corn to make high-value materials that perform as well as petroleum-based counterparts, according to CSP Managing Director Laura Seifert.

The project has been an opportunity for Walton to combine her interest in sustainability while gaining the skills she will need in her chemistry major.

“This summer has been really great in learning a great amount of how everything works in the lab, from techniques to how the research process goes,” Walton said. “From a sustainability perspective, I definitely didn’t know you could make things from corn, especially not plastics.”

Seifert said Walton is one of few top-tier chemistry and chemical engineering students selected to be part of CSP’s summer program from more than 100 applicants annually. Walton did not expect to walk away from the program at the end of this week with a scholarship in addition to the valuable experience she gained.

“I was really surprised, especially being from so far away, but once I learned more about where the scholarship came from I was just extremely humbled and grateful,” she said.

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association awarded the scholarship this year to assist a talented CSP student researchers interested in transforming how plastics are made, including through the use of renewable resources like corn. The scholarship was part of a MCGA partnership with Gopher Sports, through which funds were raised at University of Minnesota sporting events for causes that align with MCGA initiatives.

In addition to this program, MCGA provides CSP funding for research that creates polymers derived from corn, increasing sustainability while finding new uses for the nation’s corn supply.

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