Former Students


Graduate student Mike Burnard rcompleted a project examining several factors related to maple veneer checking. These included:

  • Maple veneer thickness and preparation method - 1/45" sliced, 1/50" sliced, 1/42" peeled, 1/36" peeled (Note: all veneer is screen-dried)
  • Lathe check orientation - tight-side out (i.e., lathe checks oriented towards the glueline) and loose-side out
  • Core materials - medium density fiberboard (MDF), veneer (i.e., plywood core), particleboard and combi-core (combination veneer and MDF)
  • Adhesive - polyvinyl acetate (PVA), ultra low emitting formaldehyde (ULEF), and soy-based


Undergraduate Thor Dodson worked with John Nairn on creating wood fiber reinforced polymers. He has been on the project since November and has learned to use imagej software to analyze fiber dimensions, to create epoxy, and how to create wood fiber mats.


Undergraduate Ben Gardner worked on two projects with Dr. Jeff Morrell.  

  • The red mold project is in response to a reddish discoloration found on some lumber.  He is working to understand how and when the discoloration develops.  Ben has been collecting samples from all stages of lumber processing and various locations and isolating any molds or fungi to help identify methods for prevention.  The discoloration does not hinder the wood structurally, but is a cause for concern to customers and lowers its overall aesthetic appeal.
  • The vegetable project is in response to the large number of questions the department has received regarding: Can treated wood be safely used in garden beds? Ben constructed fourteen small beds, seven using treated wood and the other seven untreated. They are currently growing vegetables such as carrots, beets, potatoes and radishes. After the vegetables are grown to maturity, they will be tested for any difference in chemical concentration.


Jonathan Gates spent a summer working for 9Wood in Springfield. One of the projects he worked on involved measuring screw pullout strength in particleboard-core architectural ceiling panels. Screws were inserted using a variety of screw gun clutch settings, depths of insertion, and with and without pilot holes. Jonathan discovered that over-torqueing screws significantly reduces holding strength. This project allowed 9Wood to create an industry leading quality control system using a new torque meter that calibrates drill gun settings very accurately in inch-pounds of torque. Report on the project

Former Ph.D. student Rajat Panwar studied changing societal expectations regarding company responsibilities and identified several important environmental and social issues upon which companies should focus. Key findings include: 1) The societal mandate regarding the role of business in society is changing; 2) Companies must respond to such changes by embracing broader social and environmental responsibilities; and 3) Six social and six environmental issues are identified that US forest products companies must address in order to be deemed socially responsible. Summary of the research

Graduate Student Natalie Macias explored how environmental certification, wood source, and price affect architects’ specification preferences for hardwood flooring. She found that their preferences are primarily dependent on price and wood source. Environmental certification of hardwood flooring is considered the least important product attribute. Summary of the research

Ph.D. student Derek Thompson assessed market opportunities for wood plastic composites (WPCs) in the U.S. highway construction sector. He estimated annual consumption for three highway products and key findings include: 1) contractors are responsible for a significant portion of highway-related purchasing in the western U.S.; 2) familiarity with WPCs amongst highway contractors is relatively low; 3) WPCs are rated favorably in comparison to other materials; and 4) WPCs must be included in a qualified product list if they are to be considered by contractors. Summary of the project