Position at Oregon State University: Student Services Specialist

Tell us a little bit about where you are from…
I grew up in Dallas, Oregon but lived in the Midwest and South for about 15 years before returning to Oregon in 2013. So I guess technically I’m a “native Oregonian”.

What brought you to OSU? What is your role in the College of Forestry?
I came to OSU after I moved back to Oregon and worked for Eastern Oregon University for a short time. I was spending a lot of time in Corvallis and decided I wanted to make it my permanent home and it worked out that the College of Forestry had a position that was available around that same time. And here I am. My current primary role in the College of Forestry is supporting our scholarship program, managing the Mentored Employment program, supporting student clubs, and supervising the FERN Center and Student Services student staff. I also work with employers who would like to share out their career or internship opportunities with students.

What’s your favorite part about working for the College of Forestry?
My favorite thing about working in the CoF is getting to know the students. I feel much of what I do impacts our students’ experience, either directly or indirectly, which makes coming to work each day a little more enjoyable.

What’s a cool work-related project you are working on right now?
I am currently preparing for the College of Forestry Career Fair (my eighth career fair!) and training our new FERN Center and Student Services student staff who will be supporting Student Service activities.

What do you like to do outside of work?
When I’m not at work I enjoy spending time with my kids (when they are not hiding out in their rooms or off with friends) and reading. I took up running during the stay-at-home pandemic year so now I’m in a love/hate relationship with running. I also enjoy watching Blazer basketball and all Beaver sports.

What’s your favorite food?
My favorite food is a tie between tacos or enchiladas. Or freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Basically I could live on these three foods and feel they should be at the top of the food pyramid.

What’s your favorite time of the year? Why?
Summer is my favorite time of year because I love the sun and the long days that come with summer and despite being born and raised in Oregon I do not love rain or gray skies.

Do you have any children or pets?
I have six children. Three of them no longer live at home and the remaining three are in middle and high school. I also have a dog (Casey) and a cat (Pumpkin).

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Why?
I’d like to possess the power to look at the ingredients in my pantry and refrigerator and come up with a creative and delicious dinner. In less than 30 minutes. That everyone would eat. With minimal clean-up. That would be an excellent superpower.

What is your job?
I’m the Department Head of FERM. My other job is as an associate professor of forest soils. I am particularly interested in carbon and organic matter and sustainability of management on soils. I have 5 students in my lab – 4 Corvallis based (3 grad, 1 undergrad) and 1 on-line MNR student.

How did you become interested in soils?
I got my bachelor’s degree in environmental science. At the time, I had several professors that got me interested in biogeochemistry, and I was also interested in forest fires. After my undergrad, I worked for a couple of years at a engineered wood R&D lab owned by Louisiana Pacific (now LP) in Sherwood, OR (while living in downtown PDX). When I was working there for a couple of years, I still had a lot of questions about things like forest fires and biogeochemistry, so I often visited the library at Portland State University to try to find answers. I discovered that if I wanted to understand how plants responded to fire or how biogeochemistry responded to fire, it all circled around soil. I applied for a lot of different grad programs, and finally found one that was a fully funded RA at the University of Washington. At that time, I was lukewarm on soil, but during my third quarter at UW, I took a genesis of morphology class that describes how soils form. In that class, I found that soils are like these awesome chemical incubators where so much is happening and so much is unknown, but at the same time, I can dig a hole and tell you a story about that place. You can dig even deeper and look at the chemistry of the soil and that will tell you stories as well. I’m really enthralled by the stories that soils can tell. They record stories that go back thousands of years.

What’s your favorite part of the work you do now?
My favorite part about my work is probably just being confused most of the time and having the epiphany and enlightenment. This happens often because we’re asking many questions that no one else is. If you work hard enough your frustration turns into some sort of payoff.

What do you do when you’re not working?
I have a family. Reyna (wife) is home with our ten-year-old daughter and eight-year old twins. When it’s nice out, we do a lot of camping. Currently, I’m trying to get my family into mountain biking. I’ve cycled my whole adult life. I’ve gotten back into mountain biking, and now own a full suspension bike. I enjoy hucking myself down trails on my bike.

What else are you interested in?
I enjoy making things. I like to cook and bake. We have slowly been renovating our house and have tried to do a bunch of that ourselves.

What kinds of things do you cook?
I’ll find any excuse to cook over a fire. I like making things like chicken skewers that cook in 20 minutes to a 14-hour brisket. I enjoy it all. I also built a pizza oven out of soil in my back yard. The soil in this area isn’t the best because it shrinks a lot, so my oven cracked a lot, but it does get really hot.

What about baking? What are your favorite treats?
I like to make cookies around Christmas time. I make all my kids’ birthday cakes. Lately, I’ll make the cake and frosting and my wife decorates because she has the more steady hand and artistic eye.

A three-story mass timber building has been designed and constructed for structural testing at College of Forestry’s A.A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Lab, the home of the TallWood Design Institute.

This project, funded by the USDA Agricultural Research Service and led by associate professor of wood science and engineering Arijit Sinha, is testing innovative lateral force resisting systems (LFRS) comprised of newer mass timber products and different energy dissipation mechanisms. These LFRS represent a suite of resilient design techniques that can localize damage in special hardware designed to dissipate energy during an earthquake or similar disturbance. The end product is a building that is potentially more resilient to natural disasters than conventional construction.

The mass timber building, constructed by Fortis Construction Inc. and spanning 40’-x-40′ will be tested in multiple phases, with each stage utilizing different LFRS in terms of design and materials:

  1. Phase 1: The first phase will involve testing a 30-foot post-tensioned self-centering shear wall made from a mass plywood panel (MPP) with U-shaped flexural plates (UFP) as the special energy dissipating hardware. 
  2. The project’s second phase will involve testing an MPP rocking “spine” with buckling restrained braces (BRBs) used for energy dissipation.
  3. Phase 3 will introduce a new mass timber panel product, yet to hit the market, as part of post-tensioned, self-centering shear walls with UFP.

All mass timber products used in the building are manufactured in Oregon with Oregon fiber. Beams and columns are Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) manufactured by Boise Cascade, while the floors and walls are Mass Plywood Panels (MPP) manufactured by Freres Lumber. Both these products are made with Douglas-fir. Simpson StrongTie provided a majority of the connections in the building.

This project is a collaboration between research faculty in the OSU department of wood science and engineering, OSU School of Civil and Construction Engineering, and TallWood Design Institute.

For more information about this project, visit the Innovative Lateral Systems website, or contact the principal investigator Arijit Sinha at arijit.sinha@oregonstate.edu, or TDI’s outreach coordinator, Evan Schmidt, at evan.schmidt@oregonstate.edu.

We’d like to congratulate professor emeritus Richard Waring, who was honored as one of three recipients of the 2020 Marcus Wallenberg Prize.  He gave the acceptance speech in the digital ceremony and symposium held on October 26, 2021.

Waring, along with co-honorees Joe Landsberg and Nicholas Coops, developed a revolutionary computer model to predict forest growth in a changing climate.  Together these scientists fundamentally changed the understanding of forest growth, providing new, spatially explicit tools that are routinely used by forest managers, scientists and policy makers.  The annual prize, one of the highest honors in the field of forestry, is named for the late Marcus Wallenberg Jr., a banker, industrialist and member of Sweden’s long-influential Wallenberg family.

Richard Waring joined the OSU College of Forestry faculty in 1963 and remained active in forest science teaching and research until 2018. The award was announced in April of last year.

The National Science Foundation awarded assistant professor Reem Hajjar $1.6 million through the DISES (Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems) program to research community forestry in Southeast Asia.

Hajjar, with a team of researchers, will study the impacts that community forestry has had on preventing deforestation while enhancing local livelihoods dependent on those forests. Researchers include professor Matt Betts, associate professors Robert Kennedy and Jamon Van Den Hoek from Geography, and assistant professor Samuel Bell from Applied Economics, as well as participating organizations the Spatial Informatics Group and the Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC).

“Scholars and practitioners have long sought answers to the question: what institutional arrangements -such as particular policies, organizational structures, informal norms and rules- are the best way to balance the two, often competing, objectives of rural development and forest conservation?” Hajjar says.

Case studies show that community forest management, where some degree of forest rights and responsibilities is transferred to local communities, can be an effective form of decentralized forest governance but long-term success and sustainability is variable.

“Our project will identify the conditions that lead to positive community forest management outcomes, like increased forest cover, biodiversity, or local incomes, and the contexts and arrangements that lead to substantial trade-offs across Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia,” Hajjar says.

In an unprecedented scale of analysis, this project will investigate and model the impacts of changes in community forest management institutional arrangements on forest conditions and livelihoods.

Using spatial datasets, researchers will test the hypotheses that community forest management is more likely to maintain and restore forest cover and biodiversity and enhance community livelihoods relative to forests that national governments manage. However, they expect that the magnitude of these impacts will be affected by the types of rights that communities can exercise over their forests and how secure those rights are. They also expect that impacts will be affected by baseline social conditions, like poverty levels and distance to markets, and baseline ecological conditions, like forest degradation and agricultural suitability. The researchers are hoping to additionally uncover the feedback mechanisms that drive this social-ecological system towards positive outcomes.

“With our research design, we can test to see if a positive feedback loop is driving social-ecological outcomes. Since communities now have some rights over those forests, we can see if communities are benefiting from more forest products and services associated with improving forest condition,” Hajjar says. “That, in turn, could incentivize them to continue to manage the forest sustainably and lead to better forest conditions.”

The result will be generalizable models that recognize feedbacks between forest conditions and livelihoods under community forest management. The goal is to produce models capable of predicting landscape and livelihood changes at various spatial and temporal scales under changing institutional drivers and ecological conditions.

The project will also train two PhD students, a master’s student and a postdoctoral fellow, in data science, qualitative methods and modeling. Course materials will be developed to bring socio-environmental modeling exercises into the classroom at Oregon State and at partner universities in Cambodia. Open access user-friendly datasets, maps and models will be available for scholars and practitioners working on environmental governance systems in the U.S. and beyond. Finally, policy briefs will be produced to inform ongoing debates about community forestry in SE Asia.

“This work will be of interest to governments and organizations promoting local governance of natural resources, including in the U.S., where forests under community management are increasing in number, and in low- and middle-income countries where communities manage over 25% of forests,” Hajjar says.

Position at Oregon State University: Assistant Professor of Integrated Human and Ecological Systems (FES)

Tell us a little bit about where you are from…
Well, that’s a bit of a complicated question. You ready? I’m a Canadian citizen and I tend to call Montreal “home” because that’s where most of my family still lives. But we immigrated to Canada from the United Arab Emirates, where I was born and spent the first 10 years of my life, but I’m not a U.A.E citizen. I was (and I guess, technically still am) a Lebanese citizen, even though I’ve never been to Lebanon, and don’t consider myself “from” there. Really though, we’re Palestinian – my parents fled Palestine as refugees in 1948 and unfortunately have not been back since, so I have no official Palestinian papers – just part of the large diaspora.. And now I’m a permanent resident in the U.S. So I guess you could say I’m a twice first gen immigrant (first to Canada, now to the U.S.) daughter of Palestinian refugees. [If you think that’s complicated, you should hear my parents’ stories!]. When I’m trying to keep it simple, I say I’m Palestinian-Canadian, and I’m going to Montreal for the holidays.

What brought you to OSU? What is your role in the College of Forestry?
I came because I was offered a great job in FES as an Assistant Professor, and Oregon seemed like a great place to live! Although I did much of my schooling and training in the east and Midwest (Montreal, New York, Michigan), I did my PhD at UBC, and after 8+ years in Vancouver I was sold on West Coast living and mild winters, so I was pretty excited to land in Oregon.

What’s your favorite part about working for the College of Forestry?
This is a tough one. I like the general atmosphere of the college – producing excellent work but also somehow relaxed and easy going (most of the time). But I think one of the most enjoyable parts of my job has been mentoring grad students. We attract some really great grad students here. I have been incredibly fortunate so far in working with fantastic grad students who are not only great scholars but also inspiring human beings. They really keep me going.

What’s a cool work-related project you are working on right now?
Gosh, all the projects are really cool, it’s hard to choose! I lead a research group called FoLIAGe (Forests, Livelihoods, Institutions and Governance), and we tackle a lot of difficult questions on how to balance conservation and development with innovative governance mechanisms, in the U.S. and in several tropical countries. A really cool project that I’m super excited about right now is one that we’ve been trying to get funded for several years, and finally got funded by NSF this year. It’s a large-scale analysis of the effects of community forestry on forests and livelihoods in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Given the unprecedented scale of the analysis, we’ll get to test some key hypotheses that have previously mostly been examined with case studies. It’s a large collaboration with several others across OSU and partners in the Mekong. It’s just so exciting that we’re finally going to get to do it! Now to carve out adequate time to actually work on it…

What do you like to do outside of work?
I’m now a typical West Coaster outside of work. My wife Julie and I spend lots of time in the woods – hiking, running, mountain biking. I also love to cook and get obsessed with good kitchen knives. And I read a fair amount – switching off between fiction and non-fiction. One of my favourite things in life is lounging on a warm beach with a good book. If we lived near a warmer coast, I’d be there very often, swimming, diving, and lounging. In a past life, my favourite things included wandering around big cities taking photographs and sampling street foods and cafes.

What’s your favorite food?
It’s a dish called kibbeh, made to perfection by my mother and replicated poorly by me. Every time I visit my parents in Montreal I come back with half my luggage full of kibbeh from my mum and manakeesh from a local Lebanese bakery (I have to go all the way to San Francisco to find a good Lebanese bakery on this side of the continent – and it’s aptly called “Reem’s”). I don’t identify as Lebanese at all (despite the expired passport), except for when it comes to the food – they really know what they’re doing with their cuisine, and that part of our culture I’m happy to say is influenced by them.

What’s your favorite time of the year? Why?
When I was living in the east – the Fall. The crispness of the air, the array of oranges and reds that are Fall foliage. Unbeatable. But now on the west coast Fall is not so grand and a little too wet. So I’d say Summer. Yes, it gets pretty hot and dry, but it’s in my blood to like the heat – I was born in the desert! But mostly I like summer activities and the slower rhythm of things when work revolves around hikes rather than the other way around.

Do you have any children or pets?
We got our puppy Miko at the start of the COVID shutdowns – fantastic decision! She’s the sweetest pups ever and has really gotten us through some tough times with her cuteness. Now we’re slowly getting her used to staying home alone while both moms are at the office. Poor baby. She’s been known to howl when we leave.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Why?
I wish I were a morning person. I think morning people have a superpower (it’s not natural!). It seems like it would be so lovely to enjoy being awake at dawn and getting more stuff done before the day starts.

Position at Oregon State University: Assistant Director of Development for the College of Forestry

Tell us a little bit about where you are from… 
I was born and raised in the “iconic” suburb of Hillsboro, OR. Fun fact about Hillsboro, for a while it was home to the largest Costco in the world–or at least that was the suburban legend growing up there.

What brought you to OSU? What is your role in the College of Forestry?
I graduated from COF in 2018 and I returned to CoF in 2020 to start my role as Assistant Director of Development. In my role I help fundraise for the College; think scholarships, fellowships, program support etc.

What’s your favorite part about working for the College of Forestry?
My favorite part about working for COF is the sense of purpose it provides me. I strongly believe in the transformational power of higher education and I believe that forestry and natural resource management is critical to a sustainable future. So working for the College of Forestry is at the nexus of my passions and fundraising for something I truly believe in makes it easy(ier) 😉 to wake up and come to work everyday.

What’s a cool work-related project you are working on right now?
My favorite thing to do at work right now is taking donors on tours of the new Peavy Forest Science Center. It is awesome to see alumni’s faces light up when they are checking out all the unique spaces. I have heard from more than one alum that they wish they could come back and be a student just to study in the new Peavy–it is pretty awesome!

What do you like to do outside of work?
Hobbies, family, volunteer work, etc. I like to camp, hike, and kayak when I can and hang out with my friends and family as often as possible. I also enjoy a spending an afternoon in a hammock with a good book. Post-pandemic I am excited to get back to my favorite volunteer program working with Let’s Go Camping to teach families new to camping “how to camp”–its so fun and rewarding!

What’s your favorite food?
I am not sure what my favorite food would be today, too many to chose from. But I know that in kindergarten I wrote in my “About Me” book that my favorite food was salted peanuts and honestly they still hold up today.

What’s your favorite time of the year? Why?
My favorite time of year is the 1st week of transition between the seasons. The first rain of fall and the first sunny day of spring always make me pick my head up a little and smile at the world around me.

Do you have any children or pets?
I have a Decker Terrier named Ty that my husband and I adopted when we were students at OSU. Fun fact about Decker terriers, they are breed of heftier rat terriers that were originally bred by Milton Decker, College of Forestry class of 1960. You can read the story here: https://nationalpurebreddogday.com/the-decker-rat-terrier/

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Why?
If I had a superpower it would be to absorb knowledge through osmosis so if I took a nap on a textbook I would just absorb the knowledge in my sleep.

Position at Oregon State University: Director, Oregon Wood Innovation Center

Tell us a little bit about where you are from…
I was born in Cincinnati, grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago, and have been in Oregon for about 30 years.

What brought you to OSU? What is your role in the College of Forestry?
I came to OSU as a graduate student and once I graduated, I was hired as a Forest Products Extension Agent for OSU in Klamath County. My role then and now is to provide technical assistance to wood products manufacturers. I also teach a course in WSE called Advanced Manufacturing 1.

What’s your favorite part about working for the College of Forestry?
I really like the atmosphere of the college. People are quite friendly, love what they do (and that’s contagious) and really go out of their way for our students. Specifically, in the work I do, I love the variety – every day is different.

What’s a cool work-related project you are working on right now?
A lot of the work I’ve been doing lately is related to helping companies develop new products. For example, I’m working now with a company that has developed a new siding product. They need to know how it will perform in temperature and humidity extremes, with UV exposure and in wet conditions. So I’m torturing this material in an environmental chamber in the Oak Creek Building.

What do you like to do outside of work? Hobbies, family, volunteer work, etc.
My wife and I are homebodies and we really just enjoy being together and going for walks in town. As far as hobbies go, I started learning to play guitar and banjo a couple years ago – and I envy anyone who did that in their teens or earlier as opposed to doing so once you’ve passed the half-century mark! I’ve also volunteered a bit with my church to provide assistance to widows in the community with chores around the house.

What’s your favorite food?
That’s a tough one. Having just visited Chicago again recently, I really miss the gyros and Italian beef sandwiches.

What’s your favorite time of the year? Why?
I really love the western Oregon winters! Yeah, that’s odd I realize – gray skies, drizzle, etc. But I love it. And I realize that more than ever now following the unbearably hot summer we just endured.

Do you have any children or pets?
Yes – we have two daughters (ages 22 and 24) and both live in Eugene. And we are the neighborhood halfway house for ‘surplus’ cats (we currently have 2).

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Why?
I’m not sure what this would be called, but I’d like to be able to slow down time – as a superhero, you could stop the bad guys by having more time to react. And as I think about it, that would be nice in just interacting with family and friends too!

Congratulations to Arijit Sinha, 2021 University Day award recipient of the Industry Partnering Award. This award recognizes a faculty member who achieves extraordinarily high impact innovations through research collaborations with industry. Sinha is a critical player in the development of Oregon’s growing mass timber industry. He led testing resulting in certification of DR Johnson’s cross-laminated timber panels as well as Freres Lumber Company’s Mass Plywood Panels.

Alumna Balkis Bakar, an Oregon State University graduate who received her PhD in wood science in 2019, is adapting wood-based composite manufacturing technology to create a new kind of composite material made from grape cane fibers.

Bakar came to OSU as a sponsored student from the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia and Universiti Putra Malaysia. She had a general idea of what she wanted to research, but it wasn’t until a service project with a local Oregon vineyard that she found a suitable material to work with. The company wanted to do something with their agricultural waste, which triggered an interest for Bakar.

“We often see the commercial product produced from the crop or plantation such as wine or cotton fibers. But what happens to the necessary byproduct produced from activities like pruning or harvesting?” asks Bakar.

Bakar says some byproduct is used for fuel, as mulch, left in the field or burned. But there is a growing interest and effort in many countries to use underutilized fibers or non-wood fibers.

“Balkis saw an opportunity to study the resource and then create a product,” says Professor Fred Kamke, the JELD-WEN Chair of Wood-based Composites Science and leader of the wood-based composites center at OSU. “Her greatest contribution is a thorough analysis of the raw material, including anatomical characteristics, cell wall structure, and chemistry.”

Based on her analysis, Bakar devised a process to extract the usable fibers and manufacture a composite using 40% grape cane fiber and 60% polyester.

“No one had done that with grape cane before,” says Kamke. “Grape cane is typically burned as waste.”

“Adapting underutilized fibers like agricultural waste as an alternative material for wood in certain applications can have many benefits,” says Bakar. “It can reduce the demand burden for wood, and growers can benefit if the plantation byproduct has some economic value.”

Bakar, who obtained her bachelor’s degree in bio-composite technology at Universiti Teknologi Mara Shah Alam and master’s degree in the same field at Universiti Putra Malaysia, explains that bio-based composites are not limited to wood fiber and include all plant materials. Previously she studied agricultural waste and byproducts from palm oil plantations.

Bakar sees potential for future grape fiber research, saying that some vineyard owners are already trying to utilize this material. Examples include weaving the cane into containers, creating decorations or converting the fiber into boards.

The Wood and Fiber Science Journal published Bakar’s research in 2020 and the International Society of Wood Science and Technology (SWST) awarded Bakar and Kamke the 2021 George Marra first place award for excellence in writing.

Bakar currently works at Universiti Putra Malaysia as a lecturer in the Department of Natural Resource Industry at Faculty of Forestry and Environment.

Bakar chose OSU because of its reputation in the forestry field and the reputation of Dr. Kamke.

Dr. Kamke has led the Wood-Based Composites Center (WBC) for over 17 years. The WBC is an NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center with two main university sites, Oregon State University and Virginia Tech. Partner institutions North Carolina State University, Michigan State University, Auburn University and the University of Nevada Reno also conduct WBC research.

As head of the center, Kamke leads research involving the design, manufacture and performance of wood-based composites. His research group also explores the interaction of adhesives with wood and modified wood in composite applications.

Kamke says many people think of particle board when they hear the phrase wood-based composite, but it is so much more than that. Wood-based composites can be manufactured in various shapes and sizes and include composite lumber, structural panels, and 3D molded parts.

“Even cross laminated timber (CLT) is considered a composite and architects are now designing skyscrapers using CLT,” says Kamke. “CLT is made from lumber, but a companion product called mass plywood panels (MPP) is made from veneer by the Freres Lumber Company. I predict that we will see other types of wood composites used in the mass timber products market.”

There are many advantages to wood-based composites. They are highly uniform in their properties, whereas solid wood varies from piece to piece. Pound for pound, a structural wood composite will have greater strength and stiffness than a solid-sawn beam or column. Perhaps the best advantage of composites is the ability to use nearly 100% of the log (excluding bark) while solid-sawn lumber has a yield of about 50%. In addition, producers cannot create another solid piece of lumber with recycled wood and sawmill residues, but producers can utilize the materials to create a composite.

Both Bakar and Kamke see massive opportunities in the broader field of bio-based composites, adhesives and modified wood composites.

“Wood-based composites and modified wood products can compete against synthetic composites like glass fiber composites, and also with streel and concrete,” says Kamke.

A version of this story appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry.