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Engineering Educator, Researcher Named University Professor

By Elliot Silver

Stephen McCarthy, a plastics engineering professor and pioneer, has been named University Professor, the highest distinction bestowed on a UMass Lowell faculty member for exceptional teaching achievement and service to the university.

McCarthy, who lives in Tyngsborough and has taught in the university’s Francis College of Engineering since 1984, is an innovator whose research has earned worldwide respect from leaders in biodegradable plastics and medical device development. He has secured nearly $9 million in research grants and contracts and nearly $33 million in intellectual property donations to UMass Lowell.

“This is the biggest honor. It’s something I’ve dreamed about,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy founded the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2), which provides business planning, incubator space, prototype product development and clinical assistance to startup medical device companies. He serves as co-director of this signature program, operated in partnership between UMass Lowell and UMass Worcester. He is also the director of UMass Lowell’s Biodegradable Polymer Research Center where he is conducting research into biodegradable plastics and blends. He is the editor of the Journal of Polymers and the Environment.

With the three-year appointment, McCarthy will deliver the annual University Professor address during the Spring 2013 semester. A reception for the university community honoring McCarthy will be held this fall.

McCarthy’s talk next spring will likely focus on his work in biodegradable polymers and medical devices. “That’s what I do,” he said.

Mechanical engineering Prof. Robert Parkin, chairman of the College of Engineering Personnel Committee, nominated McCarthy for the honor.

“Dr. McCarthy has distinguished himself as a potent researcher, especially in medical devices and bio-based plastics. His publication record is long and shows no sign of faltering,” said Parkin, who lauded McCarthy’s abilities as an educator, calling the many students he has mentored one of the most impressive aspects of McCarthy’s professional life.

College of Engineering Dean John Ting described McCarthy as “an involved colleague, always willing to help in strategic initiatives as needed,” citing McCarthy’s work in forging partnerships between UMass Lowell and institutions in Ireland and Egypt. McCarthy serves as the co-director of the university’s Center for Irish Partnerships.

With his appointment, which will run through August 2015, McCarthy joins the ranks of fellow University Professors Ken Geiser (Work Environment, 2009-2012), Robert Giles (Physics, 2010-2013) and Regina Panasuk (Education, 2011-2014).

McCarthy holds a bachelor’s degree in textile chemistry from UMass Dartmouth, a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University and a doctorate degree in macromolecular science from Case Western Reserve University.