People

Omar Espinoza, Assistant Professor and FPMDI Chair, is originally from Bolivia, where he obtained his undergraduate degree in Production Engineering and worked for 7 years in the wood products industry as production manager. He moved to the U.S. to pursue his graduate studies, earning MSc and Phd degrees in Wood Science and Forest Products at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg Va. He started his current position as Assistant Professor and FPMDI chair at the University of Minnesota in August of 2011. His research interests are in the area of product development and management, process improvement in bioproducts manufacturing, and corporate environmental strategy.

 

Shri Ramaswamy, Professor, has degrees in Paper Science and Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Physics. He has worked in the pulp and paper industry and chemical industry for about 9 years and has been at the University of Minnesota since 1995. His research group focuses on two areas: transport processes including fluid flow, heat transfer and mass transfer in porous media; and process and product engineering in the areas of bioproducts. In addition he teaches in the area of bioproducts engineering.

 

 

Anna Pitti, is a graduate student studying Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, Science, and Management. She previously studied as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management with specific emphasis in Corporate Environmental Management. She is currently working with Dr. Omar Espinoza regarding urban and reclaimed wood marketability and has previously assisted in the research and collaborative writing of an international marketing guide for forest products. 

 

FPMDI Alumni

 

Rahul BoraRahul Bora is a native of Jorhat, Assam, situated in the North Eastern part of India. After graduating in Computer Science, he worked with Nokia R&D for two years, before moving to the U.S to pursue his Masters in Computer Science at the University of Minnesota. He is passionate about creating software systems that can automate and solve real life problems. He is currently working with Dr. Omar Espinoza to build the CLT knowledge database that will serve as a common platform to foster the growth and awareness of CLT and in long term, result in improving the health of US National forests, while supporting the forest products industry.

 

Alejandro Sanchez-ChinchillaAlejandro Sanchez-Chinchilla is an Undergraduate Research Assistant and Undergraduate Student, originally from Perez Zeledon, San Jose, Costa Rica. He is working with Dr. Omar Espinoza in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering in a research project about urban wood and reclaimed wood utilization. With this research, he will be graduating in June of 2018 with a bachelor's degree in Industrial Production Engineering from the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC).

 
 
 
 
Maria Fernanda Laguarda-Mallo, Graduate Research Assistant and Doctorate Student in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, is from Montevideo, Uuguay. She holds two Bachelor’s degrees, one in Architecture and another in Interior Design, from Universidad ORT Uruguay, a Master’s degree in Timber Construction from Universidad del Bío Bío (Chile) and a Master’s degree in Bioproducts and Biosystems Science, Engineering and Management from the University of Minnesota. Since graduating in 2010 she has worked as an Instructor in two courses of the undergraduate Architecture program at ORT. She has also worked as a Research Assistant along with Dr. Laura Moya and the Department of Forest Products of LATU, in the areas of Wood Science and Technology. At the moment she is working with Dr. Omar Espinoza in topics regarding wood properties, timber construction, sustainability, energy efficiency and market potential of wood-based products.

 

Shelby Lynn Gamache is a Graduate Research Assistant and Masters Student in the Natural Resources Science and Management Program and in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering. Her undergraduate degree is in biology and environmental studies from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. After graduating, Shelby served as a Minnesota GreenCorps member in Urban Forestry with the University of Minnesota’s McLeod County Extension Office in Hutchinson, Minnesota to assist the county in conducting community tree inventories. She is currently working with Dr. Omar Espinoza on research to understand professional consumer perceptions of thermally modified wood products, with the end goal of creating a strategic marketing plan for the industry.

 

Tom Streif is an Undergraduate Research Assistant and Undergraduate Student will be graduating in May of 2018 with a bachelor's degree in Sustainable Systems Management. He is currently working with Dr. Espinoza in a research project with the objective of increasing exports of Minnesota's forest products. A native Minnesotan, frequent trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness shaped his passion for the natural world, and he will combine that passion with business logistics to stimulate green business transactions of the future.

 

 

 

 

Mariah Weitzenkamp, Undergraduate Research Assistant and Undergraduate Student, originally from Southeast Minnesota, is pursuing her bachelor degree in Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, Ecological and Environmental Engineering track, with a minor in Environmental Science and Policy Management from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus. Currently, she is working with Dr. Omar Espinoza to determine the barriers to cogeneration adoption within the US wood products industries.

 

 

 

Nicholas Vetsch, Undergraduate Research Assistant and Undergraduate Student in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, is originally from Monticello, Minnesota. His emphasis is in Environmental and Ecological Engineering and he will be graduating in May 2016 from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He will be working this summer as an intern for the City of Minneapolis. At the moment he is working with Dr. Omar Espinoza in topics regarding the use of Minnesota grown Aspen for Cross-Laminated Timber applications.

 

 

 

Qier (Cher) Xue, Undergraduate Research Assistant and Undergraduate Student in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, Corporate Environmental Management, is originally from China. She will be graduating in May 2015 and receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She is in the University Honors Program and she holds two minors, one in Applied Economics and another in Design. She has experience working with small business (Western Graphics in Saint Paul, MN) to improve their environmental performance in terms of energy efficiency and pollution prevention. At the moment she is working with Dr. Omar Espinoza in topics regarding Biomass Energy Production, Renewable Energy Policies, and Policy Effectiveness.

 

Past FPMDI Chairs

 

BBE Faculty Working on Forest Products-Related Research

Robert Erickson
Professor Emeritus

  • Wood/moisture relations.
  • Affects of initial moisture content and changes thereafter on the processing and in-use performance of solid wood products.
  • Commercialization of a new restraint system to greatly reduce warp in lumber kiln-drying.

Patrick Huelman
Associate Extension Professor

  • Thermal and moisture performance of residential building systems, components, and materials.
  • Energy efficient design, foundation systems, and innovative building technologies.
  • Residential indoor air quality, strategies for source control, and advanced mechanical ventilation systems.
  • Professional education for the home building industry.
  • Coordinator of the Cold Climate Housing Program with the University of Minnesota Extension.
  • Project Manager for the Cloquet Residential Research Facility for hygrothermal testing.

Mike Reichenbach
Adjunct Assistant Professor

  • Mike is an Associate Extension Professor. He obtained his undergraduate and Masters Degrees in Forest Science from the University of Illinois. He has 33 years of experience in forestry and currently is an Extension forestry educator. He is also a Doctoral Candidate in Education majoring in Teaching and Learning at the University of Minnesota Duluth. As an educator, he has organized, facilitated or presented at more than 250 workshops, conferences and training seminars. He focuses his work on reducing forest land parcelization, maintaining forest health and encouraging implementation of landscape scale management plans on family forestlands. He also has an interest in increasing citizen involvement and understanding of the sustainable use of natural resources. He is experienced in using educational processes that are participatory and future oriented.

Simo Sarkanen
Professor

  • Lignin chemistry and biochemistry.
  • Physicochemical properties of lignin components as a basis for developing new thermoplastics with the highest attainable contents of simple lignin derivatives.
  • Lignin biodegradation as a vehicle for producing the first true lignin degrading enzyme that biobleaches chemical pulp.
  • Biosynthesis of lignins in nature through a template polymerization process involving direct macromolecular replication.

Robert Seavey
Teaching Assistant Professor

  • Wood moisture relationships.
  • Dimensional changes in wood due to changes in temperature in timber bridges.
  • Biodeterioration of wood in flooded homes.
  • Evaluation of the energy performance of recently constructed homes in Minnesota.

Tim Smith
Associate Professor

  • Organizational adoption of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other environmental performance enhancing technologies.
  • Disclosure and effectiveness of life cycle assessment (LCA) information.
  • Corporate environmental management.
  • Sustainable enterprise strategy.
  • Integrated marketing communications.
  • Green design.
  • Private governance of sustainability.

Steven J. Severtson
Professor

  • Surface and Colloid Science.
  • Study of wetting and adhesion involving soft substrates.
  • Characterization of small molecule migration in polymer films.
  • Development of environmentally benign coatings and adhesives.

William T. Y. Tze
Associate Professor

  • Composites from renewable resources; including hot-pressed composites, biofiber- and wood-plastic composites; nanocomposites.
  • Surface modification for improving adhesion and interphase in composites.
  • Nanotechnology applications for enhancing the properties of wood and biofibers.
  • Extraction and utilization of plant cell-wall components.
  • Characterization and investigation of micron- and submicron-scale properties in relation to material performance.

Ulrike Tschirner
Professor

  • Innovative sustainable use of lignocellulosics.
  • New and improved applications for biomass, including biofuels and bioproducts, environmentally-friendly pulping and bleaching processes and recycled fiber.
  • Lignin and carbohydrate chemistry, fiber characteristics, enzyme technologies.
  • Use of sophisticated analytical tools.

Jerrold Winandy
Adjunct Professor

  • Modeling the effects of chemical, thermal, and biological agents on the physical and mechanical properties of wood and wood composites.
  • Promotion of long-term sustainability of forest resources through the use of engineered wood- and bio-composites.
  • Enhancement of engineering service-life and durability of wood-based systems.
  • Former President of the Society for Wood Science and Technology and former Project Leader of the Engineered Composite Sciences research work unit at the Forest Products Laboratory.