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Student Spotlight: Victoria Selby of Georgia Tech

Victoria Selby

ATLANTA, Georgia -- At Georgia Tech's College of Engineering, an endowment currently supports the engineering students who choose to enhance their degree with a certificate in pulp and paper.

Georgia Tech boasts some of the top minds in the fields of chemical and biomolecular engineering, mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering covering a wide range of research areas in both bioproducts and bioprocessing.

An undergraduate student who is studying any engineering discipline at GT may obtain the certificate by taking twelve credit hours as electives. Some students initially intend to obtain this certificate, but many learn about our industry and get hooked.

The program was founded in 1984, recognizing the need for strong pulp and paper engineers for Georgia- and southeast US-based companies. The Director of this program for many years was Dr. Jeff Hsieh. After his retirement in 2015, the reigns were handed to Dr. Chris Luettgen. The education of these fine students and watching them blossom in our industry has been a gratifying experience to be a part.

Paperitalo Publications was able to interview Victoria Selby, and we asked her a few questions about her experiences at Georgia Tech.

What attracted you to the Pulp and Paper program?

I was drawn to the Pulp and Paper program after my first internship at a Pulp mill. The courses involved appealed to me, not only because they'd improve my technical expertise in the field, but because the Emerging Technologies class offered a chance to see what the future of the industry could look like.

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

Not at all. I didn't know anything about the industry until my first internship. The reason I chose chemical engineering was so I could make a difference bringing a sustainability- guided mindset to chemical manufacturing. When I got into the pulp and paper field, I realized what a perfect fit it was for that goal.

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

I've worked four rotations at the International Paper mill in Oglethorpe, GA. After getting my feet wet the first summer working in reliability and learning the mill, I transferred into the Pulping unit as a process engineer, focusing on the digester area. I learned so much so fast, not just technical engineering, but about being a part of and even managing a great group of people.

What does this program mean to you?

I've benefitted significantly from the curriculum and lab experience I've gained in the pulp and paper program, but by far the people in this group are the most valuable reward. This program has introduced me to peers and mentors that will last a lifetime.

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

I've accepted a full time position with IP following my graduation. In a few years I plan to be managing my own process area and pursuing an MBA in Sustainable Business or a similar program related to resource stewardship. My main career goal right now is to move into corporate sustainability management, integrating my process engineering background with my knowledge of sustainable business practices. Beyond that, I guess we'll see what the future holds.

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

Just because the industry has existed for a long time does not mean the technology stays the same. There's so much room for innovation in pulp and paper and so many chances to make an impact. One of the first things I was told after being hired is that a pulp mill is an engineer's playground. So far, I've seen nothing but truth to that.

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

I think an unsung hero of the program is the time you get to spend in the labs. In the lab class, you get a hands on understanding of the results one call on an operating panel can make. You also get very familiar with TAPPI standards so you have confidence that the results you see in a mill lab are accurate. You also get a semester doing supervised research with any RBI professor. This is a great opportunity to explore what kind of emerging industry sectors you'd like to work in.

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

I'm a 5th year ChBE undergraduate student, in my 2nd year of the program. I'm from Perry, GA. When I'm not studying for this program, my major, or my sustainable business program, I love going camping, collecting houseplants, and daydreaming about living in an earthship on a farm. I also help run our TAPPI student chapter as the vice president.


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