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Hello from the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials:

April 18, 2013 – We recently had graduation and summer is finally here. The weather has been a tough battle this year, and Blacksburg had an unexpected snow storm in late April that dropped between 4 to 6 inches of snow. It was the latest snow I remember in my 22 years in the area. This always renews the conversation of “global warming,” “a changing climate,” or “it’s just the weather and there isn’t much we can do about it.” The good thing about this discussion is that it does highlight the importance of people’s influence on their environment and what we can do to minimize any negative impacts from our actions. Our department focuses on many of these issues through our teaching, research and extension efforts. Whether it is new products from renewable materials, reduced waste through efficient manufacturing processes, or energy from wood residues, our students are taught that they individually can make a difference through the education they receive at Virginia Tech and our department. 

We have a large graduating class this year with many already having jobs lined up to start the next step in their lives. Students from our program begin their careers as management trainees, quality control technicians, sales people, research assistants and production supervisors to name a few positions. We had new firms interviewing this year, which hopefully is a sign of the improving economy. Companies have also been on campus looking for summer interns. This is a great way for them and the student to evaluate each other and it provides a great experience for the student. If you have an interest in working with an intern, please contact us. On a personal note, I have started exit interviews with our graduating seniors to get an overall evaluation of their time in our program. To date, the responses have been very positive and most would return and do it again. I believe that says a lot for our faculty and their efforts on being great instructors. Of course, the student’s success outside of Virginia Tech will be the real measure of accomplishment. 

This issue highlights our students’ internships and study abroad activities for the past semester. The Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design developed an internship program so that our students can work part-time throughout the year in their testing facility. We had students from Virginia Tech and Purdue University looking at natural resource issues in Costa Rica with Henry Quesada. Bob Bush and Earl Kline traveled with students to Ireland to work with the University of Galway in Letterfrak, Ireland. Dr. Barry Goodell was invited to speak in Tanzania and we have a number of visiting scholars in the department this year. If you have any questions regarding items in the newsletter, please feel free to contact me.

Bob Smith
Department Head
(540) 231-7679



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