Auburn University Professor, Research Fellow Win Top Awards

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By Teri Greene

An Auburn University professor and a postdoctoral research fellow within the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences won two major awards from the Forest Products Society at the organization’s recent 2021 virtual international conference.

 Brian Via, the Regions Bank professor of forest products and director of the Forest Products Development Center, received the Engineering Achievement Award that recognizes accomplishments and innovations in the wood-engineering discipline — including structures, building codes, consensus standards, design procedures and education — as well as individuals who generate reproducible, innovative modalities in science and engineering education.

Via was honored for his collaborations with Auburn deans and faculty to develop the undergraduate curriculum of the Sustainable Biomaterials and Packaging degree program. The curriculum, housed in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, is a collaboration among the school and Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, College of Architecture, Design and Construction, Harbert College of Business and College of Agriculture.

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The program, the only one of its kind in the Southeast, provides students with knowledge, expertise and hands-on experience to prepare them for careers in wood processing, construction, chemicals and energy, bioplastics and packaging, which are industries anticipated to experience significant growth.

Via joined the faculty in 2008 after 22 years of industry engagement and experience. In 2018, he became editor-in-chief of the Forest Products Journal. He also serves as a nonvoting member of the Forest Products Society Board.

Munkaila Musah, a postdoctoral research fellow at the school’s Forest Products Development Center, is the first-place recipient of the Forest Products Society’s 2021 Wood Award, the organization’s most prestigious award at the graduate-research level, rewarding groundbreaking original research on a wide range of topics in forest products. Musah’s winning paper was “Durability of the Adhesive Bond in Cross Laminated Northern Hardwoods and Softwoods.”

“I’m stunned to have won the 2021 Wood Award and share the stage with the research experts of forest product and biomaterials in North America, Europe and Africa,” Musah, who received a $1,000 cash prize and a wooden plaque, said. “It’s an incredible privilege and reward.”

Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, said both Via and Musah have earned this widespread recognition for strides they have made in the field of forest products and biomaterials.

 “Dr. Via and Dr. Musah are certainly deserving of these top awards from the Forest Products Society,” Alavalapati said. “Their dedication to the continuous research and advancement of this field puts a spotlight on the abundant opportunities that exist for students and researchers within the forest products and biomaterials industry.”

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