Dr. Stephen S. Kelley

Professor and Department Head, Department of Forest Biomaterials Science and Engineering, North Carolina State University

BS in Wood Science, Oregon State University, MS in Forestry, University of Wisconsin & Madison, PhD in Polymer Chemistry, Virginia Tech

 

What do you like best about your chosen field of study?

In any research environment you have an opportunity to create new knowledge, solve practical problems, and teach others what you know. This is the case in industrial government or academic laboratories. I have worked in all three types of organizations and I think the major difference between these types of organizations is the allocation of your time to these different facets of research.

What are some of the personal challenges you have faced in your field?

The greatest challenges, and the greatest rewards, involve working with other to define the problem and the constraints, i.e., time, money, equipment, knowledge, and then working as a team to solve the problem.

What does the future hold for your field?

Biomaterials and bioenergy offers tremendous opportunity in the near and longer term. We will always need wood products and paper products. The demand for improved, sustainable wood based materials for housing will continue to grow. The demand for energy, fuels and power will also continue to grow. The challenge and opportunity for wood scientists and engineers is to develop efficient, cost effective technology to produce these products. I think that scientist and engineers, working together, can develop the technology and design the facilities to meet these future demands.

What advice do you have for students entering the field?

Technology is necessary but not sufficient to solve many of the challenges facing our nation as we look to make our high standard of living more sustainable. In addition to the science, technology, business and engineering classes that you will take in college you must also learn to work with others, to think critically, and to learn how to respect different perspectives.

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