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Student Spotlight: Kate Ross of Miami University

Kate Ross

OXFORD, Ohio -- The Paper Science & Engineering Foundation at Miami University was founded in 1960 through the donations of several local paper mills and corporations who wanted to ensure the education of future paper engineers.

The foundation continues to actively work with students in the paper science and engineering program at Miami University. Paperitalo Publications was able to catch up with senior Kate Ross. We asked her a few questions about her experiences at Miami.

What attracted you to the Paper Science and Engineering program?

Originally, I only chose Chemical Engineering because of my passion for math and science, but lacked direction for my future career. In my freshman year, a student already in the program mentioned the program to me and everything that accompanies it, such as the scholarships, internships, and support to develop my career. It felt like there should have been a catch like it was too good to be true, but after joining the program, I can confidently say that there was no catch, and it truly is an outstanding program.

Were you looking into pulp and paper when you were in high school?

I had no idea what I wanted to do in high school for my major, let alone my career after college graduation.

Tell us about the internships and/or co-ops you have had.

My first internship was after my sophomore year with WestRock. I worked as a process control intern in the Powerhouse and Recovery department following the Systems Automation Springboard to Internships (SASI) workshop. My two major projects were configuring the Distributed Control System and adding control logic for a project to optimize water intake to a treatment plant by installing a river water recirculation valve and working on the configuration of the Methanol Stripper bottle-up sequence to minimize venting.

The following summer, I worked for WestRock on their corporate Manufacturing Analytics team. I utilized OSIsoft PI Vision and Asset Framework to create displays for machine operators, process engineers, and corporate groups that display data and analytics while also traveling to mills to consult on projects to improve the manufacturing process and train mill employees in Asset Framework.

What does this program mean to you?

I have gotten the opportunity to achieve so many things with the assistance of the Paper Science and Engineering Foundation, largely due to the scholarships and support the program provides to students. My goal in coming to college was to get work experience and eventually land a full-time job come graduation. Through its vast network of alumni and close relationships with the paper industry, the program has led me to two outstanding internships with WestRock and a full-time job with Cornerstone Controls. Additionally, I have gotten the opportunity to hone my leadership skills through two executive board positions in the Student TAPPI, form a network of contacts within the industry, and meet some of my best friends throughout college.

Where do you see yourself in five and 10 years, and what are your career aspirations?

Out of college, I have accepted a full-time position with Cornerstone Controls as an Automation Engineer. I plan to work in the automation sector of the industry for at least the next 5 years. During the next 5 years, I plan on pursuing an MBA. With an MBA, in 10 years I hope to start working in the management side of industry.

What would you recommend to anyone who might be interested in getting into pulp and paper?

If someone is interested in the pulp and paper industry, I would just recommend trying the introductory course because it truly is an interesting industry. The introductory course and my first internship were how I determined this was the industry for me. If someone feels that signing up for the course is too much, talk to an upperclassman who has been in the program. Everyone has had a unique, but positive, experience with the program.

Please let us know of anything else of interest about your experiences in the program.

In January 2022, I participated in the SASI workshop, and in January 2023, I had the opportunity to partake in the Paper Engineering in Austria and Central Europe (PEACE) Study Abroad Program. Both of these unique programs at Miami allowed me to deepen my knowledge of the industry. SASI is a 3 week-long professional-led workshop with an emphasis on automation that pairs students with internships in process control for the following summer. Although it is not limited to paper students, the majority of students who enroll in this workshop are paper students taking internships in the paper industry the following summer. The PEACE trip took paper students to Austria, Italy, and Slovenia to tour over a dozen European mills and take courses at the Technical University of Graz, a world-renowned paper institute. SASI and the PEACE Trip taught me aspects about the industry beyond what the classroom could, and they are both something I'd recommend to future paper students.

Please tell us what year you are in the program, your hometown, and anything interesting you might do in your free time.

I am a senior, graduating in May 2024, majoring in Chemical Engineering and minoring in Paper Engineering. I grew up in Canfield, Ohio, which is a suburb of Youngstown, Ohio. On campus, I am also involved with undergraduate research with Dr. Coffin, the honors college, Tau Beta Pi, and AICHE. I work as a TA for Mass Transfer, as a departmental tour guide, and as the Head Math Supplemental Instructor, supporting Differential Equations and Linear Algebra. In my free time, I enjoy working out and spending time with my family and friends

Editor's Note: Click here for more on the Miami PS&E foundation.


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