The drive for excellence and the supportive nature of CEMS sustained Thomas Epps, III and fueled his own passion for discovery. He credits the department, as well as the University of Minnesota, for fostering a commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration, which continues today in his own career at the University of Delaware, where he is the Thomas & Kipp Gutshall Associate Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering with a joint appointment in Materials Science & Engineering. His present work efforts focus on nanostructured polymer systems, with applications in the areas of human health, sustainability, and alternative energy. When asked about his decision to pursue an academic rather than an industrial career, he says the ability to identify and define a problem, then seeing the process through to the end and understanding the "why" is very gratifying. "Academia supports my creativity," he adds. While the applications of his research are far-reaching, Epps also is quick to note that at a fundamental level, all of this research focuses on manipulating the assembly of polymer chains to control structure and function. Epps credits CEMS, with its unique combination of both chemical engineering and materials science disciplines, in addition to a close and collaborative relationship with other departments across the campus, for making his time at Minnesota a fertile ground for discovery. "The collaborative spirit in CEMS and across the U of M enables its professors to solve tough problems. As a graduate student, being part of this environment helped prepare me to have an impact through my work," he said. Epps has indeed made an impact in science and academia, as a recent recipient of the AIChE Owens Corning Early Career Award, which recognizes outstanding independent contributions to the scientific, technological, educational or service areas of materials science and engineering.