People

Omar Espinoza

Omar Espinoza, Associate 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

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

Anna Pitti, is a recent graduate of the Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, Science, and Management program. 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 Bora is a native of Jorhat, Assam, situated in North Eastern India. After graduating in Computer Science, he worked with Nokia R&D for two years before pursuing a 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 helped Dr. Omar Espinoza build the CLT knowledge database that will serve as a common platform to foster the growth and awareness of CLT and support the forest products industry.

Alejandro Sanchez-Chinchilla was an Undergraduate Research Assistant and student, originally from Perez Zeledon, San Jose, Costa Rica. He worked with Dr. Omar Espinoza on research regarding urban wood and reclaimed wood utilization. With this research, he graduated in June of 2018 with BS in Industrial Production Engineering from the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC).

Maria Fernanda Laguarda-Mallo was a Graduate Research Assistant and Doctorate Student origionally 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. She worked as an Instructor in the undergraduate Architecture program at ORT, as a Research Assistant for Dr. Laura Moya in the Department of Forest Products of LATU specializing in wood science and technology, and as a Researcher with Dr. Omar Espinoza in topics regarding wood properties, timber construction, sustainability, energy efficiency, and market potential of wood-based products.

Shelby Lynn Gamache was a Graduate Research Assistant and Masters Student in the Natural Resources Science and Management Program and in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering. She graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with an undergraduate degree in biology and environmental sciences and pursued a position as a Minnesota GreenCorps member in Urban Forestry with the University of Minnesota’s McLeod County Extension Office to assist in community tree inventories. She worked with Dr. Omar Espinoza 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 was an Undergraduate Research Assistant and student who graduated in May of 2018 with a bachelor's degree in Sustainable Systems Management from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He worked with Dr. Espinoza to increase Minnesota forest products exports. As a native Minnesotan, frequent trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area 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 was an Undergraduate Research Assistant and student who pursued her bachelor's degree in the Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, Ecological and Environmental Engineering track, with a minor in Environmental Science and Policy Management. She worked with Dr. Omar Espinoza to determine the barriers to cogeneration adoption within the US wood products industries.

Nicholas Vetsch was an Undergraduate Research Assistant and student in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering originally from Monticello, Minnesota. He specialized in Environmental and Ecological Engineering and graduated from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in May 2016. He worked with Dr. Omar Espinoza to understand the use of Minnesota grown Aspen for Cross-Laminated Timber applications.

Qier (Cher) Xue was an Undergraduate Research Assistant and student in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, Corporate Environmental Management originally from China. She graduated in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Her experience with improving the environmental performance of small businesses (energy efficiency and pollution prevention) motivated her research with Dr. Omar Espinoza in Biomass Energy Production, Renewable Energy Policies, and Policy Effectiveness.

Past FPMDI Chairs

BBE Faculty Working on Forest Products-Related Research

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.

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.

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.