Kevin Mikita photo
Kevin Mikita

Kevin Mikita is a senior from Powhatan, VA. He is in the Sustainable Society track of the Sustainable Biomaterials department, and he is also pursuing minors in both history and chemistry. Kevin will graduate in May 2022.

Kevin told us that he “chose Virginia Tech because of the beautiful campus, amazing professors, and small-school feel each major creates. The Department of Sustainable Biomaterials in the College of Natural Resources and Environment brings excellent professors and diverse subjects together to create a unique experience for students.”  

His favorite classes are the ones that “integrate environmental, cultural, and economic problems together and seeks solutions through human decision-making and real-world systems.” He feels that these classes “teach students to think dynamically and about how to dissect incredibly complex problems.” The classes, in particular, that set him on his path were Dr. Jennifer Russell’s Circular Economy Analytics and Dr. Tim Baird’s Seeking Sustainability.  

Kevin feels that the most helpful aspects of the Sustainable Biomaterials department are the quality of the professors and their openness and willingness to include students in their research. After taking Dr. Russell’s class, Kevin worked with her in an undergraduate research capacity on the circular economy of plastics. Working with her led Kevin to a summer internship and many other amazing opportunities.

In working on his undergraduate research credits with Dr. Russell, Kevin has been doing extensive exploration, mapping, and analysis of the life-cycle system for small-format PET bottles - also known as "mini-bottles" - that are used for travel-size personal care products, and beverages and alcohol in consumer and commercial settings, like on airplanes. Despite being technically 100% recyclable, almost none of these small-format bottles are actually recovered and recycled.

Kevin's undergraduate research started with an exploration of the system-wide challenges, working closely with Sazerac Co., based in Louisville, KY. This project resulted in Kevin securing the first "Sustainability Intern" position with Berry Plastics this past summer of 2021, where he worked onsite at this large packaging producer’s factory in support of a range of sustainability projects.

Kevin is continuing his Circular Economy for Small-Format PET Bottles research with Dr. Russell. In order to support and enable his continued research, Kevin was recently awarded a scholarship by the MAOP-Global Change Scholars program, a joint-initiative between the Global Change Center (GCC) and the Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program (MAOP).

After graduation, Kevin will be pursuing a career in sustainability in the public or private sectors. Kevin feels that “his education and experiences at Virginia Tech have uniquely positioned me for an exciting career.”

“The best advice I could give students just starting out in Sustainable Biomaterials would be to get involved with your professors’ work outside of classes and pursue what you are interested in. Doing these two things will lead to great things in the future." 

Kevin Mikita
Kevin Mikita