Department of Polymer Science and Rubber Technology had its genesis in 1971 along with the establishment of the erstwhile Cochin University which had the mandate to start geographically relevant academic programs for the benefit of the society. Kerala being the major producer of natural rubber it was quite pertinent to start the program on Rubber Technology. The B. Tech. in Rubber Processing and Technology was initiated in collaboration with the Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII), Kottayam in 1972 with a view to support the rubber and polymer industry in the country. It was the first attempt of its kind in the state to start a two year B. Tech. program admitting post B. Sc. Students. The first batch consisting of 12 students was admitted in 1972 and the classes started at the RRII campus under the able guidance of the eminent scientist from RRII and subject experts from the rubber industry. After a few years the programme was shifted to the main campus at Thrikkakara. The course was modified as a 3 year post BSc and started functioning in the basement of Central Library with minimum facilities. In 1978 Rani Joseph joined as the first faculty member and later Dr. A. P. Kuriakose from RRII also joined the department as Reader and was in-charge of the programme. K. E. George and Philip Kurian also joined as Lecturers in 1978. Subsequently, the Department moved to a new premise in the Department of Applied Chemistry building. In 1980 Dr. D. Joseph Francis joined the Department as the Professor and Head, a position that continued till his retirement in 1996. The Department then moved to the space in the Department of Ship Technology. The Department got a decent premise on the second floor of the electronics building in 1984, sharing the floor with the Dept. of Computer Science. After seven years the Department got an independent building and moved to the current building in 1991.
First few batches of students had a tough time dealing with the teething problems of establishing a new Department and charting new course through the unknown waters of a new subject as the course was being conducted in a research laboratory outside the campus, there were no permanent faculty members solely for this course and the labs for conducting practical were not in place. Above all there was no precedence for such a course on tyre Technology and the tyre companies were not geared up to handle students with this background. To ensure that the course got its acceptance and all the students are placed in industries, the intake was limited to twenty per batch and the admission was restricted to alternate years. The first two batches took about two and a half years to complete the course. The second batch got the first ever girl student to this programme who eventually joined the Department as a Faculty Member. Ever since Dr. Rani Joseph has been an integral part of the great success story of the Department. One of the first batch students, Mr. Tom Thomas scaled many heights and adored many coveted positions in industry and retired recently as Executive Director -Technology and projects, Ceat Tyres. Another alumnus Mr. Gopalakrishnan retired as the Advisor R&D quality Apollo Tyres. Some of the early-batch students chose to settle in the USA. One of the Alumni, Dr. Sabu Thomas is now the Vice-chancellor of the M G University, Kerala.
Over the years the B. Tech. programme has undergone many metamorphoses. In 1978 the duration of the programme was changed to three years with appropriate changes in the curriculum. Another major change was introduced in 2004 by reorganising the programme to four-year B. Tech. with the intake changing to plus-two students. This helped to align the programme to the National Pattern advocated by AICTE. In 2009 the programme was further revamped and changed to B. Tech. in Polymer Science and Engineering without compromising the Rubber Technology content. This was done after a thorough exercise involving stakeholders from industry and academia.
Introduction of an M. Tech. programme in Polymer Technology in 1985 with an annual intake of ten students was yet another milestone in the history of the Department. Dr. Thomas Kurian and Dr. Sunil K. Narayanankutty were part of this first batch.
As the Department expanded its horizon to encompass research and development, financial support was received from the Government agencies under different schemes such as FIST, SAP, PURSE etc. The first Ph.D. was awarded in 1987 to Dr. K. E. George. Since then 126 scholars have been awarded Ph. D. so far and currently there are 41 research scholars and 7 PDFs are working under the supervision of seven Faculty members. The total number of publications has crossed one thousand. Recently the Dept. has been concentrating on the IPR aspect of the research outcomes and 10 patents have been filed in the last five years of which two have been awarded. The Department has a well-established state-of-the-art laboratory to take up research in the frontier areas. A total of more than fifty sophisticated instruments are installed in the five research laboratories. The total worth of these instruments is more than five crores.
The Department of PS & RT is one among the five selected for collaboration with the Eindhoven Technological University and Twente University under the MHO programme of the Netherlands. It was a very successful and fruitful collaboration resulting in three sandwich Ph.Ds and a good number of International publications. It also helped in revising the syllabus of the B. Tech. and M. Tech. programmes offered by the Department.
The Department is also proud of the fact it is the only one in the campus to go for ISO certification on a voluntary basis. The ISO 9001:2015 certification was obtained in 2018. This has contributed quite positively to maintenance of quality and keeping track of the key performance parameters.
In the long journey since 1972, the Department has been fortunate to be led by reputed luminaries who laid a strong foundation for growth. Dr. D. Joseph Francis, the first Professor and Head of the Department was a visionary and a meticulous planner who set the pace and direction for the growth of the Department. Dr. A.P.Kuriakose, Dr. K. E. George, Dr. Rani Joseph, Dr. Philip Kurian, Dr. Eby Thomas Thachil and Dr. Thomas Kurian, Dr. Sunil K. Narayanankutty Dr. G. Jayalatha also shared the vision and strived altruistically for the development of the Department. Five new young and dynamic Faculty members, Dr. Honey John, Dr. Sailaja G S, Dr. Prasanth Krishna, Dr. Jinu Jacob George and Dr. Abhitha K joined the Department in 2015. Together they made sure that the Department of Polymer Science and Rubber Technology grew to be a model Department in the campus and created a niche for itself in the realm of polymer education in the country. Though most of the old team are retired they can be proud of what they have established and nurtured and rest assured that Department is in the safe hands of the current set of leaders.