Projects, Careers, and Capabilities Plastics and Composites Engineering

A PCE student explaining research at a conference

Alumni Employment

Product Development at Ascend Performance Materials

Applications Engineer at Samson Rope

Design Engineer at Hexcel Corporation

Materials Process & Physics Engineer at Boeing

Research & Development Engineer at Quatro Composites

Process Engineer at R & D Plastics

Structures Engineer at Systima Technologies

Additional employers include:  NikeSafran

JCATI Sponsored Projects

Current Research

Safer Materials for Aircraft Interior Composites 

WWU has been developing new materials for aircraft interiors to improve safety for manufacturing personnel. Current material (phenolic resin) off gasses formaldehyde during processing. 
WWU has successfully shown replacement materials meet FAA's stringent flammability requirements, while removing formaldehyde hazards and improving 
composite mechanical performance.

Industry Partner: Safran Cabin/Zodiac Aerospace 

High Performance 3D Printing Materials for Space Applications 

WWU and Tethers Unlimited are developing high-performance materials for additive manufacturing of components for satellites, navigation, high power microwave amplifiers and other space applications. 
These materials are intended to function under extreme conditions (high temperature, strong electric fields, ultra high vacuum) while maintaining performance of traditionally manufactured parts. 

Industry Partner: Tethers Unlimited 

Reducing Aerospace Composite Waste 

WWU Is working with Hexcel to develop new composite materials that have longer shelf-lives in order to reduce waste in the aerospace industry. The aerospace industry currently landfills approximately 500,000 lbs per year, of expired materials. 
Commercially available composites require expensive freezer storage. WWU-Hexcel developed materials will be storage stable at room temperature. 

Industry Partner: Hexcel Corporation

PCE students working on the aircraft project
An image of a satellite for the 3D printed PCE research project
Composite waste materials from the aerospace industry
An image of ocean plastic
An image for reversible thermosets research
An image of a farm field for degradable plastics research

North American Ocean Plastics Recycling 

The WWU and OSU Engineering Departments have partnered with the non-profit Ocean Plastics Recovery Project to develop methods for recycling plastics that have been collected from the ocean. 

The goal of this project is to create information for the plastics industry to use to incorporate ocean plastics into commercial products rather than sending collected materials to the landfill. 

Partner: Ocean Plastics Recovery Project, Oregon State University

Reversible Thermosets for  Recyclable Composites

Composite materials, such as those used in the aerospace and automotive 
industries, are currently unrecyclable due to their chemical nature. This presents challenges when composites reach their end of life as reuse is near impossible.

WWU is currently working on designing new types of composites that are 
chemically reversible in order to enable composite recycling and and reclamation of carbon fiber from composite waste 

Principle Researcher: Dr. John Misasi 

Compostable Plastics Degradation in the Environment 

The WWU Engineering & Design, Biology and Environmental Sciences departments are working to understand how "biodegradable" and "compostable" plastics break down in agricultural environments.

Although these materials have been marketed as improvements over conventional materials, the rates and by-products of degradation are not well understood, and a multi-disciplinary approach is needed. 

Partner: WWU Biology and Environmental Science Departments

Student Projects Plastics & Composites Engineering

During their senior year, Plastics & Composites Engineering students design and implement a project of their choosing. Students present their projects to their peers, faculty, and project sponsors at the end of spring quarter. Projects are often in collaboration with companies in industry.

Sponsor a Senior Project

Our Plastics and Composites Engineering students are required to have a year-long senior project before they can graduate. Often times these research projects are industry-partnered. Becoming an industry sponsor is a mutually beneficial opportunity for companies, industry professionals, and Western students.

You can get involved with two approaches depending on the scope of the project:

1) R&D partnerships and other long-term projects (typically involving grant funding) are administered through WWU's Office of Research and Sponsored Projects.

2) Projects of limited scope and duration are handled directly by the TDC.

We welcome you to contact us for any of the following:

  • Tours
  • Requesting more information about the TDC
  • Providing more information about potential projects

To learn more about becoming a sponsor click the "Become and Industry Sponsor" button below. 

Plastics and Composites Engineering Equipment:

A PCE student working with equipment in the lab


  • Injection Molding 
  • Vacuum Thermoforming 
  • Extruding
  • Rotational Molding
  • Blow Molding


  • Walk-in Freezer
  • Accelerated Weathering Unit 

Composite and Thermoset Processing

  • Compression Molding 
  • Reaction Injection Molding
  • Autoclave
  • Vacuum Ovens
  • Pneumatic Ski Press
  • Braider
  • Filament Winder