SEATTLE, Washington -- Bioresource Science & Engineering (BSE), initially titled Pulp and Paper Technology (PPT) and subsequently Paper Science and Engineering (PSE), was established in the College of Forest Resources and as a degree program at the University of Washington in 1965.
The College of Forest Resources is now the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, and the development of the BSE degree came with increased industry activity to investigate the transformation of bioresources into many alternative products, e.g., fuel, chemicals, as well as more traditional pulp and paper end uses.
The Washington Pulp & Paper Foundation (WPPF), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, was incorporated in 1968. The purpose of WPPF is to attract and support exceptional BSE students and provide the industry and its allied partners a pipeline of highly qualified engineering graduates who understand and are dedicated to the industry.
According to the foundation, BSE graduates "hit the ground running" and have an exceptional record of commitment and contribution to their employers. Of the more than 600 students who have graduated from the program, more than 400 have chosen careers in the pulp, paper and allied industries.
Paperitalo Publications was able to catch up with Daaniya Iyaz, a senior in the program. Miss Iyaz is from Sammamish, Washington, and we asked her a few questions about her experiences at UW.
Paperitalo: What attracted you to the program?
Iyaz: The versatility of it. As someone who was not entirely certain of what I wanted to do, I appreciated all of the options that paper science presented--whether it was technical sales, process engineering, research and development, or HR. I suppose it was actually research that interested me at first; I did not realize there was so much new technology and improvement happening in pulp and paper. I learned about creating ethanol from wood scraps or using different non-wood feedstocks to make paper. I learned about process control or using even refined nanocellulose to make conductive paper! I've always enjoyed learned about things that make me drastically expand and change the perspective I had before, and my time at the Bioresource Science and Engineering program has absolutely made me view the paper industry in a different lens than I had before.
Paperitalo: Were you looking into pulp and paper when you were in high school?
Iyaz: When I was in high school, I told myself that I would not touch calculus or physics in college. My intention was to be a neurobiology major when I stepped into UW; I had no clue that this type of major even existed. One of my friends asked me to take a BSE class with her and I, being a noble-hearted and altruistic friend, agreed. However, I think I was the one who was charmed by the class. I loved hearing about all the different research the professors were speaking about and since the major is so small and intimate, I was actually able to meet with them to express my interest and see if it was a correct fit before I applied to the major.
That was my extremely long-winded way of saying no, I was not looking into the pulp and paper industry in high school.
Paperitalo: Tell us about the internships and co-ops you have had.
Iyaz: My last internship was in the summer of 2018, and it was with Sonoco in their Sumner, WA mill. I was working as a process engineering intern in a mill that made mostly packaging-grade paper from recycled materials.
It was a huge and mildly intimidating transition for me. I had always wondered how to make the jump from "student who stays up until 2 AM trying to solve fluid mechanics homework problems" to "functioning, adult process engineer." However, my coworkers and mentors at the mill made the transition easier for me than I had expected. The importance of the projects surprised me a bit, too. For example, I was assigned to give my recommendations on how to improve the stock prep system and how to help implement a more efficient starch system--both projects that directly impacted the mill and its performance. I appreciated the trust and guidance they had given me.
Much of it was learning on the job, and I was able to pursue projects I personally found interesting as well. I somewhat adopted the wastewater treatment facility as a personal project, and I was able to learn about water treatment on the side. Internships are very similar to most things in life -- you get out of it what you put into it, and just being curious and wanting to learn is enough to get you 50% of the way there.
If I had to narrow down the two or three coolest things I had seen in my internship, it would be watching people thread the dryers by hand and looking at all of the organisms from the wastewater treatment aeration basin swimming around under the microscope. Also, I loved just watching the entire recycled papermaking process of creating something new from the scraps of yesterday.
Paperitalo: What does this program mean to you?
Iyaz: I come from a very small high-school that had a particular interest in environmental science and sustainability. As such, I tend to love smaller class sizes where both the faculty and students get to know each other.
How large UW is was a struggle for my during my first year, so finding this program was a miracle akin to finding parking in downtown Seattle.
BSE is a small home for me in the University of Washington, one that I have chosen for myself and I have tried my best to explore every nook and cranny of it.
Without getting too cheesy or poetic, I would also say that it is the future. Our faculty is doing some truly incredible research, and I am excited to see how this field changes the world.
Paperitalo: Where do you see yourself in five and ten years, and what are your career aspirations?
Iyaz: This question always trips me up whether it is asked in interviews or by my mother's friends.
As of right now, I'm not certain which path I want to take. My current plan is to try a technical sales internship to see how I like that field. I am also working in a lab right now that specializes in creating ethanol from hybrid poplar feedstock to see if I want to pursue a graduate degree in that field.
One of my professors always says that BSE graduates are "the best of the best", and that mentality makes me feel like I can do almost anything (except maybe not neurosurgery). I am not sure which facet of the industry I want to delve into, and my time here has taught me that's okay. So many people I've met in my internship or UW alumni have been able to achieve wildly different things due to their experience in this degree, and I am still looking for what my path will be.
With my luck, it will probably involve more calculus and physics, but this time, I can't wait to get started.
Paperitalo: What would you recommend to anyone who might be interested in getting into pulp and paper?
Iyaz: What helped me the most was talking to faculty before I started out in the major, and my interest in their research helped me apply the concepts I had learned.
Our classes also offered networking with alumni and professionals who were already in the pulp and paper industry, and hearing their candid perspective was helpful.
However, there really is no substitute for industry experience. When you are out in the field working on projects, that is the best way to determine if this is the right path for you.
Paperitalo: Please let us know of anything else of interest about your experiences in the program.
Iyaz: I cannot emphasize enough how much I owe to my mentors in this program. Without sounding too much like an Oscars speech, so much of my life has been shaped by my advisor, the patient, caring, and mildly snarky faculty, the pilot lab manager, the WPPF staff, my peers, and my family (who have seen many quarter-life crises already).
I am lucky to be surrounded by the people I am today.
Also, the pilot paper lab in the Bloedel basement has excellent coffee.
Paperitalo: Please tell us what year you are in the program, your hometown, and anything interesting you might do in your free time.
Iyaz: I am currently a senior in the BSE program. My hometown is Sammamish, Washington, and I enjoy reading, baking, making ethanol from lignocellulosic biomass, playing badminton, and eating food from different global cuisines in my free time.