Name: Sarah N. Swilley
Degree being sought: Polymer Science B.S.
Undergrad Degree & Institution: The University of Southern Mississippi – School of Polymer Science and Engineering
Research group: Patton Research Group
Area of study: Biomaterials/Thiol-ene Photopolymerization
Hometown: Madison, MS


Give a brief synopsis of research/work being done

I synthesized a library of UV-curable monomers with degradable acetals from various antimicrobial aldehydes. I then subsequently photopolymerized the monomers into homogeneous thiol-ene networks. Upon introducing the networks to slightly acidic environments, the acetals hydrolyze back into the original antimicrobial aldehydes and exhibited sustained release over 30-40 days. Pro-antimicrobial networks via degradable acetals (PANDAs) can eradicate antibiotic-resistant fungus and bacteria with low propensity to trigger resistance and minimal toxicity toward mammalian cells. Although a model network, we believe PANDAs have potential as a next generation antimicrobial delivery platform with potential applications in cosmetics, agriculture, and food preservation.


From your current perspective, what do you see as an ideal fit for your skills, goals and career moving forward?

Each project that I have been involved with so far has been interdisciplinary, and I plan to continue this path under Dr. Theresa Reineke at the University of Minnesota, working on her projects concerning oral drug delivery. Working in her lab would be a great fit for me because I will be able to draw from both my polymer science background as well as my interests in biomaterials. This will allow me to challenge myself by learning about the nuances of drug delivery systems. The work I have accomplished as an undergraduate in synthesis as well as characterization, both at USM and the University of Akron, will help me to contribute intellectually as well as creatively to her projects. Pursuing my graduate degree under her guidance will allow me to reach my career goals of leading a research team within a pharmaceutical company that focuses on using polymers as vehicles for drug delivery.


Why did you choose USM?

Mainly for the nationally ranked polymer program, but on a closer-to-home basis, my mother, father, sister, and numerous uncles attended USM.


What USM-related scholarships did you receive?

  • Shelby F. Thames and Shirley D. Thames Scholarship for High Ability Students Endowment – awarded exclusively to incoming high-ability students pursuing any degree in Polymer Science and Engineering
  • University Scholarship – full tuition scholarship awarded on the basis of ACT score, academic achievement and record of leadership
  • School of Polymers and High Performance Materials Scholar – Chosen based on academic merit in polymer science
  • Toyota-Haley Barbour Scholarship – awarded to five students within a STEM field at USM annually


Awards won

2nd Place Best Poster Presentation (Overall)

Waterborne Symposium, New Orleans, LA


2nd Place Best Poster Presentation (Best Work on a Molecular Structure, Function and Interactions [Synthesis] Topic)

Undergraduate Research Symposium, Hattiesburg, MS



“Pro-Antimicrobial Networks via Degradable Acetals (PANDAs) Using Thiol−Ene Photopolymerization”

Dahlia N. Amato, Douglas V. Amato, Olga V. Mavrodi, William B. Martin, Sarah N. Swilley, Keith H. Parsons, Dmitri V. Mavrodi, and Derek L. Patton

ACS Macro Lett. 2017.


“A Bio-Based Pro-Antimicrobial Network Via Degradable Acetal Linkages&rdquo

Douglas V. Amato, Dahlia N. Amato, Logan Blancett, Olga V. Mavrodi, William B. Martin, Sarah Swilley, Michael Sandoz, Glen Shearer, Dmitri V. Mavrodi, and Derek L. Patton. Acta Biomater. 2017.


Who or what influenced your USM education the most?

My research in the Patton lab has by far influenced my time at school the most, specifically working with my graduate mentors. Douglas and Dahlia Amato have encouraged me to work hard and present my research as often as possible, and I would not have accomplished as much as I have without the support of everyone in the Patton research group.


Your most profound turning point while at USM?

Dr. Robson Storey’s Polymer Organic Chemistry I course.


What are your plans for next year and beyond?

I plan to attend the University of Minnesota to pursue my graduate degree under the advisement of Dr. Theresa Reineke. After completing my Ph.D. I would like to enter industry, specifically working for a pharmaceutical company.


While at USM, what other accomplishments/activities are you most proud of?

I had the opportunity to participate in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Akron in Ohio.


What was one of your greatest challenges attending USM?

 Dr. James Rawlins’ Surface Coatings course.