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.

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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.

The Promise of Wood-Based Nanotechnology

The concept of nanotechnology can be a tough one to grasp, and making a connection between wood-based nanomaterials and forest restoration might seem like a stretch.

nanofibrils

Close-up of cellulose nanofibrils.

But a recent article in The Consultant, an annual magazine published by the Association of Consulting Foresters, provides a clear and comprehensive look at the science that is often deemed the way of the future and how it relates to forestry.

In short, “finding new, high-value, market-based outlets for excess forest biomass is vital to forest restoration.” Cellulose nanomaterials, with unique and desirable properties applicable across many industries, have the potential to provide solutions to costly forest restoration issues.

Forest Products Laboratory Director Michael T. Rains, Assistant Director Theodore Wegner, and Supervisory Research Chemist Alan Rudie co-authored the article. Topics covered include an explanation of wood-based nanomaterials and their properties, the scope of necessary forest restoration and the related costs, applications for nanocellulose, and how FPL and the Forest Service are working to move this promising technology forward.

 

A “Nexus of Innovation” for the U.S. Forest Service

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FPL Director Michael Rains

In a recent feature story from xconomy.com, FPL Director Michael Rains describes the Forest Products Laboratory as “a one-of-a-kind resource at the intersection of many Forest Service goals.”

Rains, who is also director of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, covers many crucial Forest Service R&D mission areas addressed by FPL research. Top among them for Rains includes getting “low value, crummy wood” out of dangerously overcrowded forests through accelerated restoration efforts to make “better use of woody biomass.”

The article, written by xconomy.com editor Bruce V. Bigelow (@bvbigelow on Twitter), also addresses new FPL developments in cellulose nanotechnology,  advanced composite materialsadvanced structures, using trees for bio-based fuels and chemicals, and public-private partnership projects through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements.

 

Helping People and Communities through Urban Natural Resources Stewardship

Michael Rains

Michael Rains

Addressing the critical need to manage both rural and urban forests nationwide Michael T. Rains, director of the Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory, has published a new essay in cooperation with the Pinchot Institute for Conservation.

As more than 80 percent of Americans live in urban or suburban neighborhoods; nurturing the relationship between urban growth, urban influence, and natural resources is critical. “The Forest Service has an important role in keeping this relationship in balance,” says Rains. “Keeping cities vibrant through sound stewardship of urban natural resources links environmental health with community well-being…. The Forest Service is a key contributor to the success of this strategy.”