AKRON—When a Charles Goodyear Medalist gives his opinion about something rubber, a wise person in this business would listen.
Such is the situation with this year's recipient of the ACS Rubber Division's highest technical award—Joseph Kuczkowski. The retired Goodyear research and development associate for chemicals and specialty polymers, the holder of 23 patents, is renowned for his work that resulted in the commercialization of several antioxidant systems and an improvement in the stability of the polymers that contain them.
Kuczkowski's successes were worth millions to Goodyear alone, and invaluable to many other companies that have used Wingstay SN-1 or Wingstay K.
You can read about the medalist's achievements in an exclusive interview in this issue. You'll also find Kuczkowski is no wallflower and has strong views shaped over a career in R&D at an industry giant, and as a scientist who has seen and lived through vast changes in the business.
Several of his observations are points worth taking. Among them is the decline in fundamental research by major companies in the rubber industry.
Kuczkowski said these companies cut their R&D efforts, and much of the work today is just massaging technology that's 10 years old.
That situation was entirely different when he started his career in 1971 with Goodyear, a company that gave its scientists enormous latitude. “It was like the skies were all blue, there was no barbed wire on the horizon and we were capable of doing almost academic-type research in an industrial environment,” he said.
He points to the plight of the Rubber Division and the rubber groups as examples of the decline in fundamental research.
“At division meetings, we used to have the privilege of rejecting papers we didn't think we'd want to have at the convention,” Kuczkowski said. “Now virtually everything that is submitted is accepted because we're having a harder time filling the program.”
The future of rubber science? The medalist expects discoveries to come from China and India, not the U.S., simply because these nations are turning out far more chemists, engineers and scientists.
Maybe he's wrong. There's always hope.