LSU Chemistry Alumnus Dr. Christopher Bounds Returns Home to Mississippi to Take New Director Role at MSU’s Advanced Composites Institute

by Elizabeth Cui | June 2020

Dr. Chris BoundsSTARKVILLE, Miss.- LSU double graduate, Dr. Christopher Bounds, makes his way back to his home state to be the new director of Mississippi State’s Advanced Composites Institute.

Mississippi is home to some of the country’s best research facilities for unmanned aircraft and composite materials. Bounds will serve as part of MSU’s Raspet Flight Research Laboratory which is considered prestigious in the aviation industry.

Bounds brings a commercial perspective and a desire to bridge the gap between industry and academia by driving applied research with high-utility technologies.

The Advanced Composites Institute create stronger, lighter and more damage-resistant composite materials primarily for the aerospace industry, however, Bounds plans to diversify the portfolio by penetrating other markets such as automotive, naval, and renewable energy markets.

Known commonly as the ACI, the institute, under Bounds’ direction, will initiate, lead, and facilitate strategic programs that drive innovation and nucleate applied research and economic development through collaborative partnerships with universities, government agencies, and industry associates.

“We will focus on targeted innovation, addressing real market-vetted needs,” said Bounds.

Composite materials are a combination of multiple components whose product offers a synergistic increase in material strength. Typically, aerospace composites are made in layers of thin fiber sheets and epoxy resin, which is like glue that holds the thin plies together.

One of the big assets that Bounds and his team offer is their ability to stitch material fibers prior to resin infusion, which adds strength in the z-direction of a composite material.

“Whenever a layered composite is struck or flexed, you’re going to get what’s called delamination which is like peeling of the layers,” Bounds said. “It’s peeling because it’s breaking bonds in the resin or fiber reinforcement. What we do is stitch the layers together, just like you would with your sewing machine at home, so whenever the composite is impacted and begins to delaminate, it runs into a stitch and stops the separation or ‘arrests’ the damage.”

Stitched Resin Infusion is transformational technology that directly addresses real-world delamination problems. Stitched Resin Infusion strengthens composites, minimizes joints (failure points), and reduces manufacturing costs. 

Bounds also added that the ACI can create more complex structures with composite materials because they can form three-dimensional shapes when the material is dry and malleable before adding the epoxy.

“We can get very intricate shapes by forming and stitching the dry structure and later adding epoxy, thereby, also reducing the out-time of the resin,” Bounds said.

Bounds started his academic journey at The University of Southern Mississippi as an undergraduate student studying biochemistry. His focus back then was on medical school. However, after meeting a particular professor, now the head of the chemistry department at LSU, Dr. John Pojman, his sights were changed.

“I attribute a lot of my success to him [Pojman],” Bounds said. “He’s been a mentor to me all the way back to my undergraduate days. As a matter of fact, he was the reason, and I don’t say this lightly, that I decided to get into chemistry beyond undergrad. I owe a lot to him.”

After completing his undergraduate degree, Bounds went on to gain his M.B.A and his Ph.D. in polymer chemistry at LSU.

“Chris was always willing to try any new idea in the lab,” Pojman said. “He worked extremely hard, which is why he finished his Ph.D. in four years. I enjoyed every minute of our scientific discussions.”

Bounds worked with Pojman as a student worker and laboratory manager and thoroughly enjoyed it. Together they made significant contributions to science, traveled the world and built a great relationship.

“He accompanied me to China when I was invited to visit several universities,” Pojman said when discussing his favorite moments with Bounds. “Chinese women regularly wanted to pose for a picture with him because they said he looked like Leonardo DiCaprio.”

After his academic studies, Bounds worked in a series of different roles, most notably his positions at Albemarle Corp., Charlotte, North Carolina. Bounds spent eight years working in leadership and technical roles before joining the MSU team.

“In my role here as well as previous roles I’ve always tried to tie in different backgrounds and different perspectives to solve holistic problems.”

Bounds' diverse academic and professional portfolio with a mixture of science and business allowed him to gain a different perspective than his peers.

Bounds hopes to find an equilibrium of science and business by focusing on the application of scientific research and its application to the real world, a skill that not all scientists focus on.

“The reason I specifically chose to do business was because I like to see technology come full circle,” Bounds said. “I think it’s really important to take your knowledge in science and to apply that to the real world.”

Bounds is excited to take MSU’s Advanced Composites Institute to the next level, discovering, expanding and creating amazing things in the composite materials field, and where better than in the comfort of his home state.

“I would have taken this job regardless of where it was but the fact that it was back in Mississippi was really icing on the cake,” Bounds said. “It means more than I can even explain to be back near family and friends in my home state.”