Annual Holiday Paper Sale!

Every fall, using the pilot paper machine in Bloedel 014, several students in the Bioresource Science and Engineering program roll up their sheaves—sorry, sleeves—to produce a few rolls of handcrafted paper. Organized by the student chapter of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI), the annual papermaking fundraiser helps cover student conference fees and support other events.

TAPPI Paper SaleThe paper itself is 100 percent non-wood, and you’ll often find holiday flourishes in it, such as ferns added to the slurry to provide festive accents when the paper is printed.

You have two options:

* Five cards and five 8.5”x11” sheets: $10
* Five cards only: $5

TAPPI had a cutting party last Tuesday, so we know the paper is trimmed and ready to go. If you’d like to place an order, email TAPPI Chapter President Seth Jorgensen or call/text 253.439.9498 to arrange a purchase between December 2 and 13. TAPPI will also have a booth at the SEFS Holiday Party this Wednesday, Dec. 4, from 4-6 p.m., so stop by and check out their handiwork!

Job Placement Paradise

For college graduates, the triumphant feeling of earning an undergraduate degree doesn’t seem to last too long these days—or at least not nearly long enough. You barely have time to pop the cork and celebrate before the stress of finding a job can turn high fives into handwringing and headaches. Headlines about the job market, after all, have been rather ominous. Hiring is sluggish. Budgets are pinched. Open positions are gobbled up by people with a dozen more years of work experience. In short, unpredictability reigns.

But not all graduates are feeling that sense of dread and uncertainty. In fact, commencement remains a season of opportunity for students earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Bioresource Science and Engineering (BSE) from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

Papermaking Lab

Working in the paper lab at SEFS.

Graduating with a BSE degree has resulted in essentially 100 percent job placement—and with an average salary of roughly $66,000. So basically every BSE graduate who has sought a position in the field has found one. That’s an impressive success rate, and it speaks volumes about the value of the BSE program.

Formerly called Pulp and Paper Technology and then Paper Science and Engineering, BSE was established as an accredited engineering degree program at the University of Washington in 1965. It’s one of only eight programs in the country that offers a concentration involving paper science and bioresource conversion (and the only one west of the Mississippi River). The curriculum is possibly best described as applied chemical engineering with an emphasis on the conversion of forest and bioresources into paper, fuel and chemicals. Students enjoy a wide range of hands-on classes, ranging from actually making paper to producing biofuels, and they often land entry-level positions as process engineers, technical sales engineers, and research or production engineers.

The firms recruiting these graduates represent a wide range of industries, including pulp and paper manufacturers, chemical manufacturers, process and computer control companies, and engineering design companies. They come from communities across the Pacific Northwest and around the country, as well as from international locations.

BSE Students

BSE students work on their formulas for the next paper run.

Since 1968, the nonprofit Washington Pulp and Paper Foundation has worked to connect these firms with highly qualified technical graduates who understand and are dedicated to the industry. Housed within the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, the Foundation is comprised of member companies, alumni and friends, and its work linking students with potential employers has been highly effective: Of the nearly 500 students who have graduated from the BSE program, about 80 percent have chosen careers in the pulp, paper and allied industries.

Mike Roberts, executive director of WPPF, grew up in Aberdeen, Wash., and graduated from UW. He’s watched the original pulp and paper focus expand and evolve to include biofuels and other applications, but the practical value of the degree has never changed.

“As students and employers have come to realize that our forest and bioresources are truly renewable, the support of our program and the desire to hire our graduates has steadily increased,” says Roberts. “We count on the support of Foundation members, BSE alumni and program friends to continue our scholarship and placement mission.”

For students concerned about what to do after graduation, that kind of job placement success can offer a real opportunity.

Photos © Karl Wirsing/SEFS.

Undergrad Spotlight: Megan James

Megan James, left, and other members of the student TAPPI chapter during the November 28 papermaking project.

Dating back to the 2nd century AD during China’s Han Dynasty, and possibly earlier, the ancient art of papermaking helped transform the way people kept and transferred knowledge, records and language. Gallop ahead a couple thousand years, and that proud tradition is still alive today at SEFS—though with some modern upgrades.

Every fall, using the pilot paper machine in Bloedel 014, several students in the Bioresource Science and Engineering (BSE) program roll up their sleeves to produce a few rolls of handcrafted paper. Organized by the student chapter of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI), the annual papermaking fundraiser helps cover student conference fees and support other events. “It’s a social event just as much as a learning event,” says Megan James, a senior BSE major and president of the student chapter of TAPPI. They also host barbecues and bowling events, as well as a resumé café to help students fine-tune their applications.


Students add plumosa ferns to the slurry to create some festive accents in the paper.

James first participated in the papermaking project as a freshman. Now, her favorite part is seeing everybody get a chance to get their hands dirty in the various stages of production, from stock preparation and the pulping of materials, to the final messy day—in goggles—using the paper machine. “It’s a great opportunity for students who are leaning about these things in the classroom to see everything take place, and actually participate,” says James. “Some students have never seen the machine run before.”

The paper itself—which is 100 percent non-wood—is composed of a giant reed (arundo domax), bagasse from sugarcane, and Washington-grown wheat straw. As a holiday flourish, students also added some plumosa ferns to the slurry during production, so you’ll find some festive accents in the paper. (The reeds are native to Egypt, but in this case the materials came from Mark Lewis’ lab; he’s the faculty advisor for TAPPI.)  This year’s crop was produced on November 28 and featured several styles and weights, including card stock, regular 8.5×11-inch copy paper, and greeting cards.

Paper Roll

One of several rolls of paper the students produced.

Papermaking is only a small part of the BSE experience for a handful of students, yet this kind of hands-on training has broader applications in the field. Many BSE graduates go on to work for chemical vendors or pulp and paper companies, and since the curriculum has expanded to include biofuels, students are finding additional opportunities with research positions or graduate school. “The great thing about this major is that it prepares students with a specific skill,” says James. “We’re kind of like specialized chemical engineers, equipped to go into pulp and paper and the emerging biofuels field.”

James is a perfect example of the market value of this skillset, as her papermaking career won’t be ending with graduation. Following a successful internship with Procter & Gamble last summer, James has received a job offer to continue on full-time starting this summer. She’ll be working as a process engineer at a brand-new plant in Bear River City, Utah. The plant, located about an hour and a half north of Salt Lake City, produces toilet paper and paper towels for brands such as Charmin® and Bounty®.

Congratulations, Megan, and the rest of the papermaking crew!

Photos by Dustin Cardenas/BSE