My name is Wallace Layman and I am a sophomore in pursuing a dual degree in Paper Science and Engineering and Chemical Engineering programs. Before Covid-19 struck, I was scheduled and excited for a super co-op with Buckman Chemical supporting the Westrock, North Charleston, SC mill and the International Paper, Georgetown, SC mill. However, when these were canceled due to the pandemic, I received a very fortunate and amazing opportunity. I was offered a paid summer research project alongside Dr. Byrd. I would do the research at my house over the summer. My research project consisted of completing at home trials converting corn stovers into a certain type of paper-like material. I also was working to complete 8 credits hours of online summer courses alongside my research and having this hands-on experience was a great break from staring at a computer screen all day.
I am extremely excited and thankful for this opportunity to work on a research project at home. An industrial size commercial blender was delivered to my home allowing me to complete the trials on the corn stalks and leaves. I had weekly meetings with Dr. Byrd and the other students that were given research experiences with him. Each week I was able to “think and do” of ways that I could make this project a success which included trying different soaking times with different levels of heat or different blender power levels and executions.
A Project with a Purpose
We had a minimum of 15 hours required weekly to work on the project and received payments in two installments, one mid-summer and one upon completion of the work. This project allowed me to gain meaningful experience even though I know that I missed out on a great opportunity since I was unable to work in the industry this summer. I do very much look forward to that opportunity in the near future. However, much to my surprise, I did have an exciting and productive time, enjoying the experimentation process of trying to produce things where the final outcome, or the success, is unknown. It may turn out that I am unable to produce the desired project out of corn stovers; however, it is just as useful to know if something doesn’t work, verses it does. That is one of the things I appreciated most about this experience: a purpose.
By guest blogger Wallace Layman