De’Andre Stafford-May has made quite an impression on polymer researchers in Mississippi, throughout the US, and around the world. When he graduated from Hattiesburg High School this year, he had already been a finalist in regional, state, national, and international science fairs and had won a number of prestigious awards, including multiple first-place titles in Chemistry, The Army Award, two naval awards, and The Air Force Award. He was also able to claim 2 years of polymers research with doctoral students and professors at the University of Southern Mississippi where he plans to enroll this fall. Stafford-May’s research project titled “A Comparative Study of Traditional Heat Cured Resins to UV Cured Resins in Kevlar” has even been recognized by RadTech, a national journal organization in the polymers field. In April 2012, the organization flew Stafford-May and his mentors to Chicago to receive a series of awards for excellence in research in the field of UV-cured surface coatings.
This young man’s story is also one of overcoming odds. As a young teen, his father passed away, and Stafford-May now works two part-time jobs to help support his family, including five siblings. Despite this extra work that many students do not have to do, his polymers teacher James Brownlow said that Stafford-May “moves in and out of his spheres of influence with ease” and is “a role model for his younger siblings, for his peers, and for me.” Brownlow added, “ De’Andre’s success highlights in my mind the fact that any child, from any background, can do and accomplish any given task provided they have proper motivation, support, and the right level of expectations.”