Return to Skip Menu

Main Content

Hello from your Department

Oct. 4, 2016 –  

By Bob Smith


Bob Smith Robert (Bob) L. Smith Head, Department of Sustainable Biomaterials.

It is hard to believe that another year has passed and we just welcomed 140 students back to our department. We currently have the largest undergraduate enrollment in the department’s 37 year history and the largest incoming freshman enrollment at 18.  We graduated over 25 students in May, with most of them finding employment within the profession.  Many of the students had summer internships with our industry partners.  The department remains committed to have our students prepared to “hit the road running” when they graduate, and internships are vital for them getting experience in the industry.
Your department’s faculty met this summer for one day to do some long range planning and to review the changes we have made in the past few years.  Our objective is to make sure that our students are well prepared for the 21st century workplace.  Our classes focus on hands-on learning techniques and team building skills so they know how to effectively work with others in a job environment.  Repeatedly, when we ask employers what do students need to be successful, it is their social, leadership, communication, and organizational skills that rate higher than their technical skills to be successful in organizations.  So we have adapted many classes to let students better develop these important job characteristics.  From the freshman level classes in Packaging Science to the Wood Enterprise Institute (WEI) students are working in teams to design and produce a product.  Upper level classes require presentation and problem solving exercises to improve the communication skills.  While the baby boomer generation was interested in finding a long-term career and moving up the ladder, students today have different goals (and maybe better).  They are more concerned about social responsibility, sustainability, serving society, and participating in decision making.  They tend to stay with companies for less time and are more mobile than my generation.  With the advent of social media, they want information quickly and may struggle with processes that take a long time to develop and implement.  On a side note, my thirty year old son has held more jobs (on his choice) in eight years with major companies, than I have in my entire life.  I share this to let you know we are adjusting our departments’ instructional techniques and classes to meet these students.
In this issue of the newsletter you will see who our new graduate students are, where the department has been sharing our good stories, the successes of some of our students and what research is currently going on. This fall starts my 4th year in the role of department head.  One of the highlights of these years has been that day in May when students walk across the stage to receive their diploma.  The students have worked hard, played hard, and are headed out to make their mark on society.  I am very proud of the fact they chose our department and college to spend these years and that we all have had a small impact on their future.  We never know how we impact the lives of others, but as it has been said, “Any act of kindness and goodwill will never go unrewarded.”  I wish all the graduates continued success in their lives and careers.  Please feel free to contact me with any comments or suggestions to improve the program (  Again, thanks for your support of our students and I wish you a successful year.

Best wishes,
Bob Smith

Fall Newsletter 2016

    Cover of newsletter


Fall 2016


Upcoming Events

  • Forest Products Exports 2016

October 17-18, 2016 in Charleston, SC.

  • The Future of the Hardwood Lumber Industry

Conference to be held November 2 - 3, 2016 at the Wood Education and Resource Center (WERC) in Princeton, WV.
For more details and registration, please visit the web site



newsletter logo


Job Opportunities


Course Recommendations:

To help you explore your interest in any of the degrees, we recommend trying some of our introductory courses:

Packaging Science

Sustainable Biomaterials


Workshops and Short Courses

    SBIO Student Organizations

SBIO Student Organizations

Find more information

Students life

Career and Services


Apply to Virginia Tech