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Spring 2017 SBIO Newsletter

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Download SBIO Newsletter Spring 2017
COVER: 2016 Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design summer interns. Front row from left to right the students are: Leah Johnson and Samantha Phanthanousy. Back row from left to right the students are: Michelle Lipka, Page Clayton, Robert Shock, Hunter Houston, Chandler Quesenberry, and Gloria Alvarez. Photo by Laszlo Horvath.

Hello from your department

By Bob Smith
Another semester is almost over and in about three weeks, twenty-five students from the department will walk across the stage at the Moss Arts Center and collect their diplomas. It is always one of the highlights of the year with emotions of great joy, and some sadness for students who will be leaving their Hokie home after four (plus) years of hard work, a challenging education, and hopefully some fun. Many of our students will start new careers in areas such as distribution, research, marketing, design, and production management. Employers began last fall coming to campus to recruit students for positions in the private and public sectors. These employers tell us that the number one challenge for their companies is finding qualified individuals to fill positions that will help lead them into the future. They are not only looking for individuals with good technical knowledge, but students with good communication skills, the ability to take a leadership role early in their career, the ability to work in teams, and to be able to solve complex problems that arise regularly in their companies.

The Society of Renewable Resources at Virginia Tech

By Earl Kline
The Society of Renewable Resources (SRR) at Virginia Tech is a club for students interested in sustainability through the use of natural and renewable resources. The club's mission is to provide service to the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials and the Virginia Tech community and to foster professional development to better enable tomorrow's work force.

The Packaging Club at Virginia Tech

By Tyler Engel
Virginia Tech Packaging Student club has been established since 2010. The club is a member of two different national organizations: a Student Chapter of the Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP) and a student chapter of Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI). More than 60 active students are doing collaborative projects every semester such as participation in packaging design competitions, the annual PackExpo and the Packaging Jamboree. Developing a deep and advanced career in packaging is a main goal of the club.

Students Attend Packaging Jambroree at R.I.T.

By Tyler Engel
On March 9-11, 13 Hokies, including two faculty, from the Packaging Systems and Design program attended the Packaging Jamboree. PackJam is an event that is held annually at the various Packaging schools on a rotating basis. The meeting provides students with a great opportunity to network with industry members, as well as students in similar majors.

New Graduate Students

Sailesh Adhikari Paula Fallas Valverde Niloofar Yousefi-Shivyari

Students from Argentina Join Classroom Discussion on Sustainability and Sustainable Biomaterials

By Tom Hammett
Through the Friends of Fulbright Argentina-Undergraduate Student Exchange Program, a group of students from Argentina spent a month on the Virginia Tech campus. In February Tom Hammett opened up his SBIO 3454 class to the group to discuss society and sustainable biomaterials. Several discussed with our students the differences in perceptions about sustainability between our two countries and the use of wood products. At the end of the visit to Virginia Tech, Tom organized a tour of the Brooks Center during which Laszlo Horvath showed them the testing work being conducted in the pallet lab, several of our WEI students discussed the processes of project selection, product development, and marketing, and Dan Hindman discussed our work with CLTs and the issues and opportunities for wider adoption of CLTs. Dr. Carol Franco from FREC, and Phil Araman from US Forest Service each joined the class to discuss climate change with our visitors.

Yifan Dong Wins Global Competition for Graduate Student Award

Fourth-year graduate student Yifan Dong, pursuing her Ph.D. in chemistry in Dr. Kevin Edgar’s group, was presented with the first-place graduate student award for 2017 at the American Chemical Society national meeting in San Francisco, California on April 4. Ms. Dong has carried out pioneering research to develop new ways to convert natural sugar-based polymers (polysaccharides), including cellulose from wood and annual crops, into value-added products to serve society. She has focused particularly on new materials to improve the ability of new drugs that are poorly soluble in water to be absorbed completely into the body, thereby reducing drug cost, side effects, and variance in efficacy, and improving convenience for patients.


Maple Syrup is Focus of Sustainability and Bioenergy Project Work

By Tom Hammett

This semester the learning group projects in Society, Sustainable Biomaterials and Bioenergy (SBIO 3454) will all focus on issues and opportunities in bioenergy for the maple syrup industry. It all started when Tom decided testing small stoves with various types of biofuels would be a good example for his class. The goal is to test the efficiency of a variety of stoves and fuels so that recommendations can be made to small producers in the region.

Chip Frazier's Research Collaboration with the University of Auburn

By Chip Frazier

In February 2017, Chip Frazier’s research group hosted collaborators from the University of Auburn, at Auburn Alabama. Visiting were Dr. Soledad Peresin and her graduate student, Celeste Iglesias, who is trying to develop new materials from nano-fibrillated wood fiber. Dr. Ann Norris (Sustainable Biomaterials at Virginia Tech) trained Celeste on rheological tools that simply measure the flow properties of the fibers. Peresin and Frazier study how lignin impacts the fiber flow properties, and the properties of mats formed from the fibers.

Wood Enterprise Institute

By Earl Kline
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Wood Enterprise Institute (WEI). Once again, this year’s team of students are busy working together to overcome challenges in their business to create, build and deliver unique wood products. This year, the WEI team is carrying out a business plan to make and sell a uniquely designed Virginia Tech wine rack to Alumni, family and friends. This innovative product was promoted so well that the number of wine racks the team planned to make sold out in a matter of minutes when they opened up their online store!

Hammett Named Visiting Professor at the Agricultural and Forestry University in Nepal

By Tom Hammett
The recently established Agriculture and Forestry University (AFU) is the first land-grant institution in Nepal. AFU has just named Tom Hammett as Visiting Professor beginning in March 2017. After his nomination, Hammett completed the year-long review and approval process in the fall of 2016 and the decision was announced in late February. His roles will include guiding graduate students, advising faculty on teaching and learning, and developing collaborative research programs. Currently research and development goals for this collaboration with AFU are to develop ways to produce and use cross laminated timbers (CLTs) in earthquake recovery, and developing research protocols for sustainable production of non-timber forest products. During the past several years, Tom has been involved in several projects in Nepal and the region, leading faculty research groups and study abroad courses there. His most recent project was to help found and mentor Virginia Tech’s Service Without Borders (SWB) and lead a SWB service learning trip during the summer of 2016 to Nepal to conduct reconstruction work after the earthquakes of 2015. This new position should open up new collaborative research and teaching opportunities for Virginia Tech in a variety of disciplines.

Collaboration Between NWPCA and Virginia Tech

By Laszlo Horvath
National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) and Virginia Tech are working together to move the pallet industry into the 21st Century. NWPCA became one of the Gold level members of the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design (CPULD) in 2015 and established the NWPCA Research Fellowship program in which graduate students are supported to investigate the interaction between packages and pallets and to conduct research that helps the pallet industry be more sustainable. Page Clayton was the first student supported by the program. Page graduated from Virginia Tech’s Packaging Systems and Design program in May 2015. During his time at Virginia Tech, Page was extensively involved in the packaging program, he participated in the Sustainable Packaging Designer Trainee program offered by CPULD, worked as a laboratory technician for the Center for two years, and was actively involved in the Packaging Club. After graduation, Page continued to work for the Center and used the skills that he learned during his undergraduate studies to help packaging companies design safer and more sustainable packaging solutions.

Sustainable Packaging Designer Trainee Program

By Laszlo Horvath
The Sustainable Packaging Designer Trainee program was established in 2012 by the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design (CPULD). Since then, the program has become a great success. Students graduating from the program receive job offers as early as a year before graduation at companies such as Niagara Bottling, Rehrig Pacific, Newell RubberMaid, Sam’s Club, Manhattan Associates, and Grupo Phoenix.

Continuous Improvement

By Laszlo Horvath
In addition to the industry projects the students actively apply the principles of Lean Management in the laboratory. This year we had two focused improvement events (Kaizen) for three of our offices. The students learned to apply 5S principles and develop an automated replenishment system (Kanban) for the storage room in the lab.




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