The Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), in cooperation with Mississippi State University (MSU), has developed a strong graduate education and research program over the past several years that has attracted outstanding scholars from South America. Many have completed graduate degrees and are now providing leadership in academic, research and industry programs, both here in the United States and abroad.
"I'm very proud of the strong partnership between FPL and MSU," said Rubin Shmulsky, Professor and Head of the Department of Sustainable Bioproducts at Mississippi State University. "It's humbling for me to be a part of this team's efforts to attract and train the next generation of diverse professionals and leaders in support of sustainable forest products research and development."
Two Brazilian scientists are excellent examples of how effective this relationship is.
The latest graduate, Laurice Spinelli Correa, a post-doctoral research associate at MSU, is currently stationed at FPL through a program that has been funded through the USDA Agricultural Research Service, Forest Service Research and Development, State and Private Forestry, and Mississippi State University.
Laurice completed her undergraduate studies in Brazil and moved to Mississippi to pursue her master's and Ph.D. at the Mississippi State University Sustainable Bioproducts Department. While working at MSU, she gained experience in wood mechanical testing, connection systems, and engineered wood products.
Here at FPL, Laurice has been involved in the nondestructive evaluation of wood. Through fire protection projects such as the evaluation and protection of wooden utility poles, she has been able to apply her scientific knowledge while contributing to the development of wood products for community use.
"Being able to work at the Forest Products Laboratory and learn from the most prestigious scientists in the U.S. is a privilege to me," said Laurice. "It's exciting to go to work every day with a smile on my face, knowing that we're making a difference in our society."
"Not many people have that wonderful feeling, and I am grateful for it!" Laurice added.
Another collaborator in this program is Brunela Pollastrelli Rodrigues, who completed her Ph.D. in Brazil, and after a couple of years as a professor in her home country, decided to work as a postdoctoral associate at MSU. Before working on her Ph.D., she had first come the States as a visiting student and had the chance to work closely with recognized research engineers from Forest Products Laboratory (USDA) on the nondestructive evaluation of wood.
"I'm delighted to be back in the USA working in the Department of Sustainable Bioproducts at the Mississippi State University and to be a member of such an accomplished team that works closely with the Forest Products Lab," said Brunela.
"As a wood scientist, this has been an outstanding opportunity for me to be involved in crucial research and in the mentoring of students in the forest products area."
Brunela's past research has focused on projects related to wood quality from forest plantations in Brazil. Currently at MSU, she has been working to create and promote a reliable database to deter illegal logging and improve the wood trade internationally.
"A lot of students go through graduate programs, work in one area and come out very knowledgeable on that one piece of work," observed Bob Ross, Project Leader and Research Professor at FPL, who has worked extensively with both Laurice and Brunela. "But the way FPL and MSU do this, graduates come out as fully functional professionals—they know what they're doing, and more importantly, they know why they're doing it. Something like that that doesn't always happen. I wish I could hire every one of them! The graduates are in great demand and they're doing well. And I believe they're very satisfied with what they're learning from FPL too."
William (Andy) Martin, Assistant Director for Wood Products Research at FPL, agrees.
"I'm impressed with the quality and professionalism of the scientists we're able to work with out of MSU," said Andy. "I certainly look forward to continuing the great partnership that has been established between FPL and MSU," said Andy.
Published by the USDA Forest Products Laboratory in Lab Notes.