One of Us: The Person Behind the Professional
Laszlo joined our department in November 2010 as an Assistant Professor of Practice. He is currently an Associate Professor and is the Director of the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design (CPULD). Laszlo earned his Bachelor’s degree in Wood Products and his M.S. degree in Wood Engineering, specializing in wood building construction, from the University of West Hungary.
Laszlo’s interest in the industry began because his father owned a custom kitchen manufacturing company. Due to this, he was exposed to the business at an early age by working first as a carpenter and then as a floor supervisor in his father’s company. While in college, Laszlo realized that an engineer does not only need to have great technical skills but also needs to know about the business side of a company, thus, he double majored in Wood Engineering and Engineering Management.
After graduating from the University of West Hungary, Laszlo had the opportunity to pursue his Ph.D. at North Carolina State University. There his research focused on predicting the micromechanical properties of genetically engineered trees. This was a topic of great interest because, during his Master’s studies, Laszlo had been exposed to the mechanics of full structures, so he found investigating these same mechanics on a micro scale very intriguing.
Because he was interested in the versatility of wood and how it could be used for construction, he started out his career with a focus on wood engineering. Laszlo told us that “when I applied to Virginia Tech, I was excited to use my engineering knowledge to help the packaging and pallet industry to be more competitive. First, I considered pallets to be a really simple structure and I could not figure out why we are making a big deal about it. It did not take me long to realize how challenging simple structures such as pallets or boxes could be.”
Laszlo loves being a professor because of the mix of responsibilities. As the Director of CPULD, he gets to work with the industry to provide rapid solutions for their most pressing needs. As a researcher, he gets to work on complex problems for which no one yet has solutions. And, finally, as a teacher, he gets the opportunity to share his knowledge with packaging students and give them the tools they’ll need to be successful once they graduate.
Laszlo’s favorite thing about Virginia Tech is the community because he has an opportunity to work with amazing people every day. One of his favorite classes to teach is SBIO 3005-3006 Sustainable Packaging Design and Innovation. In this class, he stated that he “has a chance to work with super talented students on real life industrial projects and to see them continuously develop work ethics and professional skills throughout the process.”
One of the most rewarding research projects that Laszlo has been involved in is the “Investigation of the effects of packages on the load capacity of wooden pallets.” He feels this is a great project because it has the potential to transform the wood pallet industry by changing the way pallets are designed. Laszlo informed us that “currently, we are overdesigning every pallet, which wastes our natural resources and increases the cost of the pallets.”
Because the interactions between packages and pallets is such a complex phenomenon, this project is a multi-year endeavor. “Thus,” Laszlo explained, “we took a step by step approach. First phase of the project focused on the interaction between pallets and corrugated boxes because 85% of the products travel in corrugated boxes. We worked collaboratively with the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association throughout the project, which resulted in the findings of the study being built into the computer software called The Pallet Design Systems (PDS) that is used by pallet designers all over the world. One of the best parts of the research is to see the knowledge that the project generated being used by the industry pretty much right after we finished the work. Presently, pallet designers can optimize their pallet designs using the new version of the software and can ensure that they only use the optimal amount of natural resources for their pallet.”
Laszlo is originally from a small town in Hungary called Kiskoros, and he enjoys visiting family and friends in Hungary when he can. Laszlo and his wife have a 1-year-old son who currently occupies all of their free time. Laszlo enjoys the outdoors and traveling. He feels very fortunate to have traveled to many different places of the world, but he is also happy to spend time with his family and work around the house.
One of the things his wife finds hilarious about Laszlo is that yoga stresses him out. If you have been around him for very long you probably know Laszlo is a highly energetic person and is always thinking about the next project or research grant. Therefore, when he tries to do yoga, he ends up spending the time thinking about the work he needs to complete and receives no relaxation from yoga whatsoever.
Laszlo is so passionate about the packaging industry that if he were not a professor, he believes he would probably be in a leadership position in the packaging industry. That way, he would still be using his skills to make a difference in the world and helping the environment.
Quote from a former student:
"Dr. Horvath, with the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials at Virginia Tech has created an exceptional packaging program that allowed me to develop my curriculum around the topics I was most passionate about. The program also allowed me to work on industry projects; which granted me the opportunity to economically support myself through grad school, accumulate work experience, and network.
I am a very proud Hokie, who had the great opportunity to be mentored by Dr. Laszlo Horvath. He is a bright man, who strives to and creates positive changes in everything he develops. Working with him, I learned to always seek improvement and never give up. Dr. Horvath is a practical professor, who allows his students to experiment and create their own solutions while using sustainability science.
I am confident when I say that Dr. Horvath is one of those professors/mentors who motivates you to succeed!" - Alina Mejias Rojas
Laszlo has won numerous awards. They include:
- Laszlo has received the highest “Professional” level of the ISTA Certified Packaging Laboratory Professional certification. Thus far, only 28 “packaging engineers received the “Professional” level in the world.
- Best Scientific Presentation from the International Association of Packaging Research Institutes, June 2017
- Certificate of Excellence, XCaliber Award – for an Individual Making Exemplary Contribution to Technology-Enriched Learning Activities. 2013
- George Marra Award in recognition of excellent writing and research from the Society of Wood Science and Technology, June 2013
- North Carolina State University Provost Fellowship (2007)
- Outstanding Graduate Student Award, Faculty of Wood Science, University of West Hungary (2007)
- Hungarian National Academic Scholarship Award, (2006 and 2007)
- Scientific Student Research Competition, 1st Place (2005)