Charles (Chip) Frazier
One of Us: The Person Behind the Professional
Charles (Chip) Frazier has worked as a professor in the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials since October 1992 and as Director of the Wood-Based Composites Center since 2005.
Chip was born and raised in Warrenton, Virginia. He earned his B.S. and Ph.D. at Virginia Tech, and his M.S. at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. All three of his degrees are in wood science - heavily flavored with chemistry, biochemistry, and polymer sciences.
A twist of fate led Chip to the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials. “When I was trying to get into engineering, the VT wood science department [as it was called then] reached out, and I tried it as a passage to engineering. By chance, my advisor, Dr. Wolfgang Glasser, was a wood chemist; he encouraged me to take organic chemistry and I was hooked. That’s how I got here. I’m a huge geek, and I love the chemistry and polymer science of plants and plant products.”
Chip gets the most satisfaction from “positively influencing students’ career potential.” He stated that “research discovery is still a thrill, particularly if the industry finds value in it. All of my classes are about the chemistry and polymer science of plant products or other natural materials. I love it when my excitement translates to the students, and some days are better than others!”
Chip’s favorite thing about Virginia Tech is the feeling of a long-term community: “employment at my alma mater, that’s pretty cool.”
Chip’s current research projects are: studying the properties of catechyl lignin, a newly discovered plant polymer; performance of phenolic adhesives, how plant-based additives affect performance; thermochemical reactions of lignin while heating wood; carbon isotope ratios, which show how much synthetic and natural formaldehyde is emitted from non-structural wood composites; and petroleum alternatives - producing useful chemicals from plants. He believes that choosing a favorite research project would be counterproductive for his graduate students. He finds all of their projects exciting because they all relate to the creation of value from plant products.
Chip’s past awards include the 1999 Sporn Award from Virginia Tech and a kegerator awarded to him by his “dear football buddies,” so they can all drink cold beer when they visit for the VT football games!
Chip met his wife at Virginia Tech; she’s a VT biochemistry alumnus. They enjoy attending music festivals, traveling, and hanging with their friends. Outside of the job, Chip says he enjoys manual tasks such as working-out or splitting firewood on their property.
When asked what career he would have if he were not a professor, Chip’s comment was that whatever that might be, it would be less satisfying than the fulfillment he receives from being a professor.
Quote from a former student:
“Dr. Frazier taught me to question/investigate my own knowledge and research, in order to understand it to the level that I could answer even the most minute detail. A trait that has helped propel me in my career, digging deep into the source of problems, rather than just addressing the symptoms.” – Christa Stables, Technical Sales Representative, Arclin