HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WHLT) – A new project, spearheaded by University of Southern Mississippi (USM) polymer Professor Dr. Zhe Qiang, will study the impact of microplastics on marine and community health.

According to officials, Qiang and his team secured a $4 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of the foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program.

USM’s project is officially titled, “Advancing Social and Environmental Equity through Plastics Research: Education, Innovation, and Inclusion (ASPIRE).”

The goal of the project is to develop a regional hub of plastic-climate-health research with particular focuses on promoting environmental and social equity and workforce diversity. The grant period is for four years.

“USM is uniquely suited to perform this project due to its strength in polymer and ocean research, as well as its proximity to the coastal community,” said Qiang. “Moreover, both the states of Mississippi and Alabama have a high population of underrepresented minority groups, and the outcomes of this project will directly improve their health condition, business opportunities, along with waste recycling infrastructures.”