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Feature Stories

150 Years of Innovation
Applied research in UMass history
UMass professors Levi Stockbridge, Richards Stein and Carl Fellers.

Dan Chard explores the ways in which applied research both shapes and reflects the history of UMass Amherst.  The impact of work by innovative researchers Levi Sockbridge, Carl Fellers, and Richard Stein is still felt on campus.

In celebration of our sesquicentennial, PhD candidate Dan Chard, history, penned a new paper highlighting three men whose work influenced the past, present, and future of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Working under the direction of historian Marla Miller, Chard's paper Applied Research in UMass History, explores the history and impact of Levi Stockbridge and his contributions to the agricultural world; Professor Carl Fellers a pioneering food scientist who forged impressive and sometimes controversial relationships with industry; and Professor Richard Stein, whose dogged efforts spearheaded the establishment of the campus's world-renown polymer science and engineering department. An enjoyable and accessible read, Chard's paper reveals the motivation behind their research, and the challenges these innovators faced to overcoming certain governmental, societal, and economic issues in order to advance their work.  

During the 1870’s, Levi Stockbridge’s research focused on expanding the use of fertilizer to double productivity in farmer’s fields. He wanted to help local farmers, but his research went on to gain "international repute" according to Chard. Stockbridge created the Stockbridge School of Agriculture which thrives today as part of the College of Natural Sciences.

During the Great Depression and the years of World War II, Professor Carl Fellers founded the graduate program in food science and "quickly propelled it into the largest at UMass and the top in its field," writes Chard. Fellers was able to achieve that, in part, by being the first faculty member to attract significant external research funding. The UMass Food Science department continues to be the best in the country.

From the 1950’s to the 1990’s, Dr. Richard Stein helped transform UMass with his research in polymer science. According to Chard, Stein founded the Polymer Research Institute in 1961, one of many campus-based and industry-supported institutions dedicated to interdisciplinary collaboration.  The PRI was the beginning of the campus's quick climb to the top as a world class center for research in polymer science and engineering. Although retired from UMass, Stein continues to spread knowledge on the importance of polymers, and on finding solutions for global warming.

There's an old saying, “Too often we are so preoccupied with the destination, we forget the journey.” Here is your chance to journey back to relive the making of a major research university (a link to the paper is below). Enjoy the ride.

Emily Bettis '15 and Karen Hayes '85