Alabama Center for Paper and Bioresource Engineering prepares today's students to become tomorrow's leaders

Published: Sep 13, 2023 4:15 PM

By Joe McAdory

One of the critical missions of the Alabama Center for Paper and Bioresource Engineering (AC-PABF) is preparing today’s students to become tomorrow’s industry leaders.

“Wood to paper is a journey,” said Zhihua Jiang, Center Director and Auburn Pulp and Paper Foundation Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. “Just like turning wood to viable paper products used by consumers, our students are transformed from the day they step foot in our classrooms into polished professionals capable of leading in a variety of capacities within the pulp and paper industry.”

Roughly 90 students – graduate and undergraduate – are enrolled for the fall semester.

“We offer a curriculum that prepares them to not only perform the job as engineers in the pulp and paper industry, but to make positive impacts wherever they go,” Jiang said. “Through our pulp and paper specializations, students are learning and growing together. Students learn the process from the wood to the pulp to paper. The entire process.”

Why should students consider Auburn University’s pulp, paper and bioresource engineering program? “If you can be a pulp and paper engineer, you can do anything,” Jiang added.

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Auburn pulp, paper and bioresource engineering graduates are equipped for the next level.

“Pulp and paper operations are sophisticated processes. This is a platform that requires knowledge in many disciplines. Here, you learn biosystems engineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, environmental engineering, process control and optimization, material engineering, mechanical engineering and more. Within the industry, you will have these environments. Within our program, you are in a great place to grow and blossom into successful engineers.

“As pulp and paper professionals, our graduates are hot commodities on the job market. Companies receive young, committed and well-educated talents when they hire Auburn graduates.”

Jiang praised the Foundation’s 39-member companies for cultivating the program through scholarship stipends, providing internship and co-op opportunities along the way, and serving as employers.

“This is one of the most generous scholarship programs at Auburn,” Jiang said, “and we couldn’t be more thankful to our member companies, who not only cultivate pulp and paper education at Auburn University, but their generosity is cultivating the next generation of pulp and paper engineers in the state and region.”

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Zhihua Jiang has served as director of the Alabama Center for Paper and Bioresource Engineering at Auburn University since 2016.

Conducting fundamental and applied research in line with pulp and paper industry’s research and development agenda is another mission of AC-PABE.

“We take a fundamental and applied approach to research,” Jiang said. “Research is educational for students, preparing them for their careers. Through this process, we prepare graduate students who can continue beyond Auburn as engines to drive their research, develop new products and improve net operational efficiencies.

Some of the Center’s research focuses include:

  • Novel additives in kraft pulping
  • Data-driven soft sensors for brown stock washing
  • Carbon dioxide capture from the kraft mill limekiln: process and techno-economic analysis
  • Lignin-containing vitrimers
  • Cellulose nanocrystal films
  • Valorization of paper mill sludge and soybean hull

Jiang added economic and environmental benefits are the byproducts of impactful research.

“This helps trim costs and minimize the environmental impact by reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “Our research not only benefits the pulp and paper industry, but also companies who produce related products.

“Pulp, paper and bioresource engineering at Auburn is a blossoming ecosystem that provides a well-rounded education and provides companies with job-ready candidates who will leave a positive impact wherever they go – and, ultimately, that makes the pulp and paper industry even stronger.”

At Auburn, Jiang has been the principal investigator (PI) or co-PI on 28 grants totaling more than $36 million, including three projects approved by the U.S. Department of Energy for contract negotiations.

Media Contact: Joe McAdory, jem0040@auburn.edu, 334.844.3447
Fundamental and applied research in line with the pulp and paper industry’s research agenda are vital missions of the Center.

Fundamental and applied research in line with the pulp and paper industry’s research agenda are vital missions of the Center.

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