Alonda Johnson came to Virginia Tech from Newport News. She didn’t always plan on joining SBIO.

"I originally came to Virginia Tech because of the Neuroscience program, as I wanted to go into the medical field. The summer between my freshman and sophomore year I decided to work in a hospital to get more of a feel of what the setting was and decided that certain aspects didn’t fulfill what I wanted out of a career.”

Alonda changed her major to Packaging Systems and Design due, in part, to a high school tour she’d taken of the pallet lab.

“When I was in high school, I interned with Virginia Tech and during one of the internships I had the chance to tour the Pallet Lab in the Brooks Center. After deciding I did not want to be in the medical field anymore, I was lost as to what I wanted to do but remembered the Packaging program. I remembered it being very out of the box, pun intended, as it combined technical aspects and creative aspects as I’d never seen before, and I decided to switch majors,” she said.

Alonda believes that the most helpful aspect of the SBIO Department is her close relationship with the professors.

"My high school was extremely small; I graduated with a little over 30 people, so I am used to being close to all my classmates and teachers. Once becoming a part of the Packaging program, I quickly realized how similar of a feeling I got. I am a first-generation student, so I am unable to ask my family for advice on applying to graduate school or how I’m even supposed to navigate the world once as a college graduate. In turn, the professors here have become a large resource for me in trying to understand the steps I needed to go through in order to achieve my goals as well as helping me with developing expectations I should have for myself in order to be successful.”

Her classes were stimulating and interesting.

“One of my favorite classes so far is [Young] Kim’s Packaging Polymers and Production. Before this class, I had taken many classes that already were shaping my direct interests and what sections of packaging I wanted to work in, but in this class, I was able to make more direct goals as well as a route to get there. My other favorite class is Sustainable Packaging Design. In this class I worked with [Eduardo] Molina to partner with a company and test different cold chain packages to determine what best fits their needs. This class, although structured, allowed my group and I to understand how to work towards a solution by doing market research, creating testing procedures, and analyzing data. This class allowed me to confirm that the future I had planned for myself was what I really wanted. It also allowed me to further understand how the industry works and how to handle difficult situations I may have to navigate around while going through my career.”

Alonda discovered a love of research and plans to come back to graduate school. She also wants to get some industry experience on her resume.

“My future goal is to be a professor, but first I would like to work in the industry, preferably in medical packaging, to gain the knowledge that comes with it. I have found that I love research and that I would love to give back to students what my professors have given me. This fall I will be applying to graduate programs to continue my education after I graduate.”

The best advice she can give to others is to keep pushing forward: “I would tell other students that not knowing exactly what you want to do isn’t a reason to not keep going. The faculty here are open and kind and will answer every question you throw their way. They will, to the best of their ability, help you figure out what your goals are and how to reach said goals.”

Alonda Johnson