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Holiday Greetings to One and All from Virginia Tech and the Department of Wood Science and Forest Products.

Dec. 13, 2011 – It has been a great year in the Department with many exciting activities. We have seen new research funding come in for fields ranging from Construction Safety to Cellulosic Drug Delivery. Our Packaging Systems and Design program is growing in leaps and bounds. This year meetings and conferences were sponsored by our department faculty in areas ranging from Hardwood Processing and Innovation-based manufacturing, to Cellulose chemistry, biopolymers and biomass processing.
We have also seen significant growth in our undergraduate student enrollment thanks to the efforts of our faculty in student recruitment, and especially the efforts of our student ambassadors. Just a little background on that growth: For those of you that have checked our website, you have noted that since last April we have been promoting the department’s growing interests in the field of sustainable biomaterials. Wood is of course the most abundant and widely used sustainable biomaterial, but with all the work the department is doing in areas including innovation-based manufacturing, polymeric drug delivery systems and bone scaffold materials, and new engineered packaging materials, we have expanded well beyond the traditional bounds of wood products. One of the reasons for our growth in student enrollment in the past year is the promotion of these new areas of interest, under the banner “Education in Sustainable Biomaterials”. It has been exciting to see the growth in interest in these areas by prospective students, and we look at this as a way to introduce wood and other lignocellulosic materials to a broader population of students.
As many of you are aware, all of the programs in wood science across the United States have faced issues of low student enrollments, and many of these programs have either gone through a re-branding (renaming) process, or they have disappeared. At Virginia Tech, we have also been faced with this dilemma, but we have been taking positive action. Because our department has grown over the years to encompass many new areas of interest, even while maintaining our core competencies in wood science and forest products, a new name that better fits the breadth of the department is appropriate. And, as we head into the new year, we wanted you all to know that soon we expect to be able to make a formal announcement about the new departmental name which will help us grow and serve our traditional base better, while also expanding to serve a broader base of industries including those in the chemical processing, packaging, manufacturing, and advanced materials fields.
Despite the current economic slowdown, the future is bright for the use of renewable, sustainable materials. Two recent surveys highlight (see the next pages of this newsletter) that renewable materials and environmental careers are where growth is occurring. We look upon these changes in a positive light and know that in the future, we are going to be educating an even stronger, and larger, base of students who will become the future leaders, managing new and expanding industries focused on wood products and sustainable biomaterials.
As always, we welcome your comments, and your help in shaping our student’s educational future. We wish you the Happiest of Holidays, and all the best for the New Year.
Barry Goodell
Head, Wood Science and Forest Products



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