Big Grant Funding Awarded to Tiniest, Mightiest Building Material of the Future

The Forest Products Laboratory is pleased to announce the littlest big news that could help change how we fabricate the world around us.

CN-enhanced concrete looks and acts like traditional concrete but is much stronger. Photo by Michael Goergen, U.S. Endowment.

USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in collaboration with P3Nano from the US Endowment for Forests and Communities(U.S. Endowment) announced ten awards this month for projects ranging from one to five years, totaling $2.4 million in grants to further nanocellulose research.

The partnership funds research to evaluate the safety of cellulosic nanomaterials (CNs), develop process improvements to reduce production cost, and provide new market opportunities for advanced applications. Everything from biodegradable snack packaging to concrete additives that significantly reduce CO2 emissions are possible with CN innovation.

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2015 Director’s Awards Presented

Michael T. Rains, Director of the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) and Northern Research Station (NRS), today presented the 2015 Director’s Awards to 10 exceptional employees furthering scientific advancement at the two research facilities. Rains praised the honorees for their impacts and contributions made at their respective posts, but lamented the fact he was forced to choose only a handful of winners from a pool of such outstanding talent.

“There can be only one winner for each award—if I could do more, I would,” Rains said from the NRS station headquarters in Newtown Square, Pa.

Each Director’s Award recognizes individuals in seven different categories: Distinguished Science, Scientific Support, Early Career Scientist, Excellence in Science and Technology, Science Delivery, Sustaining Forests and Grasslands, and Cultural Transformation. FPL employees received accolades in four of these categories:

John Considine received the Distinguished Science Award for his efforts in advancing measurement methods to understand problems affecting paper performance, spending nearly three decades working to understand and improve paper quality and properties. His contributions include developing one of the first instruments capable of testing paper and paperboard in compression, helping the United States Postal Service reduce waste in stamp printing from 40% to 15%, and investigating why machine-made paper fails at lower strength than laboratory-made sheets. Aside from his own students and the original inventors of the technique, Considine is the only scientist in the world to use the Virtual Fields Method to research paper defects.

Keith Bourne received the Scientific Support Award for his expertise in mechanical engineering and his integral role in several FPL projects over the past few years. Among other accomplishments, Bourne designed and developed measurement devices for a project funded by Shell Oil, including a new power meter and data acquisition system to measure the viscosity of biomass materials. He was also solely responsible for designing and constructing the hardware and software for the laboratory’s rainfall simulator, and is currently assisting with a project to develop an auditory termite sensing device.

Senalik_headC. Adam Senalik received the Early Career Scientist Award for his profound impact despite his relatively short time working at the laboratory. Senalik began his career at FPL in 2013 after working as a forensic engineer for a private firm. In the past two years at the laboratory, he has contributed to several projects, including analytical modeling of lightweight timber bridge decks, and evaluating the effectiveness of cutting-edge bridge inspection techniques. Senalik has also worked cooperatively with several other government agencies, including the Department of Defense and Federal Highway Administration.

Kenneth Skog received the Excellence in Science and Technology Award for both his international contributions establishing the role of wood product production and use in mitigating climate change, and his national contributions in identifying sustainable levels of forest-based biomass for use in energy production. Skog’s work has led to internationally accepted methods and software products to help countries calculate the greenhouse gas emissions that are mitigated by harvested wood products. He also led a team for the Department of Energy’s biomass supply report that estimated each U.S. county’s capacity to create biofuel and energy from forest-based biomass. The resultant database has been used by state governments, federal agencies, investors, and other organizations to evaluate a county’s natural resources for future economic development.

The NRS award recipients follow:

Yude Pan, Distinguished Science; Paula Murakami, Scientific Support; Lindsay Campbell, Early Career Scientist; Kevin T. Smith, Science Delivery; Pamela Edwards, Sustaining Forests and Grasslands; Jim Lootens-White, Cultural Transformation.




Congratulations to Dr. Robert J. Ross 2014 Felix Ponder Award of Excellence Recipient

Dr. Robert J. (Bob) Ross of the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) was awarded the 2014 Felix Ponder Award of Excellence today by FPL and Northern Research Station Director Michael T. Rains. Ross is a Supervisory Research General Engineer and the Project Leader of FPL’s Engineering Properties of Wood, Wood Based Materials and Structures Research Work Unit. He is also an ST (Senior) scientist, which is the highest level that a federal research scientist can achieve. There are only three ST scientists among the 60 scientists at FPL.

“Thanks to all of you, and all you do,” a surprised Ross said. “I really don’t know what to say. So many people do so much more and are more deserving.”

Dr. Robert J. Ross

Dr. Robert J. Ross

During a conference call with NRS and FPL employees, Rains cited just a few of Ross’ endeavors outside the workplace as among the many reasons why “he should be a role model for all of us,” and why Ross “was such a worthy recipient of this honor.”

Ross has served as Project Leader for several Research Work Units at FPL, including its physical and mechanical proprieties testing unit, since 1988. His current research focus is the development and use of nondestructive evaluation technologies for various wood products and structures, from standing trees to historic buildings and ships. He has written or co-authored more than 200 technical reports/articles about nondestructive evaluation and jointly holds 24 U.S. and foreign patents.

In addition to being a science leader, Bob is very supportive of employees with special needs. In collaboration with the Madison Area Rehabilitation Center, Bob has sponsored employees with special needs for a number of years and has fully integrated them into his work unit. He is also very active in the Williamson – Marquette Neighborhood Center (WilMar), where he and other FPL employees prepare a meal on the first Saturday of every month for needy Madison residents. Bob donates significant time and money to Port Saint Vincent de Paul, a shelter that functions as a “port in the storm of life” for low-income men. He is also very active in St. Coletta of Wisconsin, which provides residential and vocational programs for people with developmental disabilities.

This award honors the late Dr. Felix Ponder, Jr., who was a soil scientist with the Forest Service Northern Research Station for more than 30 years. Dr. Ponder combined excellence in science with deep commitment to making a difference in people’s lives. Dr. Ponder worked for 18 years on the campus of Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., serving three years as project leader of the second research work unit in the nation located on the campus of a historically black college or university. His work with students was instrumental in drawing people into natural resource careers.

Ross was presented with a handcrafted walnut pen-and-pencil set which had special significance to Dr. Ponder.


JY Zhu Recognized: Multiple Awards for this Productive Researcher

Director Michael T. Rains visited FPL yesterday to present length of service awards to employees, which recognize workers for each 5 years of their service. Mr. Rains also made a special point of remembering awards granted throughout the year, and researcher JunYong (JY) Zhu deserves a shout out for his many accomplishments. Possibly the most prestigious of this year’s many awards for Dr. Zhu was the 2014 R&D Deputy Chief’s Distinguished Science Award.


Dr. Zhu was recently honored with the 2014 U.S. Forest Service R&D Deputy Chief’s Distinguished Science Award.

But that’s just one of Dr. Zhu’s 2014 accomplishments. Did you know that FPL research results in many patents? Indeed, the Patent Program helps convert Forest Service research into usable information and technologies that benefit both the American public and industry. Dr. Zhu is an inventor on 7 issued patents and 5 pending patent applications. Following are Dr. Zhu’s most recent patents:

JY Zhu and Hao Liu – Metal Compounds to Eliminate Nonproductive Enzyme Adsorption and Enhance Enzymatic Saccharification of Lignocellulose.

JY Zhu and Richard S. Reiner (FPL) – Methods for Integrating the Production of Cellulose Nanofibrils with the Production of Cellulose Nanocrystals (Patent No. 8,710,213, Issued 4/29/14).

One of FPL’s most prolific researchers, Dr. Zhu received the GMFAA Employee of the Year Award, Technical Category, for his sustained research excellence and productivity. He has published more than 90 refereed research papers and has delivered over 75 presentations. His contributions have been directed to utilization of small-diameter wood for fiber products and developing forest biorefinery technologies and nanocellulose production strategies.

JY Zhu received the Technical Association of Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI) 2014 Research and Development Award.

FPL and the American public are fortunate to have such a devoted and hard-working researcher working for us.

Fastener Corrosion Research Garners Wood Engineering Achievement Award

Samuel Zelinka will be awarded a Wood Engineering Achievement Award at the 2014 Forest Products Society Annual Excellence Awards, Aug. 10-13, in Quebec City.


Samuel Zelinka

Zelinka, a materials research engineer at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), analyzes the relationships between wood and moisture with a particular focus on understanding how corrosion impacts the performance of fasteners. His work is part of the Durability and Wood Protection research group at FPL.

The Woodworking Network explains that Zelinka’s work developing electrochemical-based tools to assess the corrosion potential of fasteners in preservative treated wood is what garnered him the award. His findings have led to a “new model for electrical conduction in wood as a function of moisture content that helps explain why corrosion and mold growth occur below fiber saturation.”

This year’s Forest Products Society Convention, its 68th, is a joint effort between the Forest Products Society and the World Conference on Timber Engineering. It strives to combine the knowledge and experiences of a global network of professionals exploring the state of forest products research and innovations in the field.

In 2013 Zelinka published a popular desk reference on fastener corrosion created for engineers titled Guide for Materials Selection and Design for Metals Used in Contact with Copper-Treated Wood. Zelinka received the Presidential Early Career Scientist Award in 2011, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers.