Laszlo Horvath, Ph.D.
You might say the love of all things wood comes naturally to TAPPI member Laszlo Horvath, Ph.D.
He grew up in his father’s small furniture manufacturing company in Kiskoros, Hungary, helping to create high-end custom pieces. But it wasn’t until he began his wood engineering studies that he discovered his true passion – the mechanics of structure and design.
Laszlo, now an Assistant Professor and Director of the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design at Virginia Tech (VT), earned both an M.S. in Engineering Management and an M.S. in Wood Engineering from the University of West Hungary in 2007. Before graduation he learned of a position at North Carolina State University that would provide him the chance to study underlying micro mechanical relationships in the cellular structure of wood, while researching genetically modified species with reduced lignin content. According to Laszlo, these trees are specifically engineered for paper production and his work investigated whether the genetic modification compromised their mechanical properties.
He graduated NC State in 2010 with a Ph.D. in Forest Biomaterials and was soon on his way to VT where he teaches undergraduate level classes related to computer-aided design, packaging distribution, product protection, and pallet and unit load design. In addition to developing the curriculum for Packaging and Systems and Design, he also researches the physical integration between the components of unit loads with the goal to develop more sustainable designs.
Interestingly, Laszlo says he didn’t know a lot about the pallet industry before joining VT. “I always looked at pallets as small building structures, therefore I was excited to apply my knowledge in this new area,” he said. As Director of the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA)-certified Center, he is responsible for managing multiple applied research projects on design methodologies to create more sustainable packaging solutions. He is also tasked with using Lean Management principles to create an innovative environment where researchers and students can work together to help the packaging industry.(You might want to refer to another TAPPI article on this topic. See article attached)
And speaking of students, Laszlo is also actively involved in building VT’s first TAPPI student chapter which he is co-advising with a fellow professor (Dr. Young Teck Kim). With 32 actively participating students, Laszlo says they are now merging with VT’s Institute of Packaging Professionals chapter and are looking to build a stronger relationship with NC State’s TAPPI chapter. “We already have a strong connection with local corrugated and paperboard companies,” he said, “and we are hoping that by building an even stronger club that this will help students gain additional connections in the industry.”
Which is not surprising. Having started his own career path into the pulp and paper industry as a builder of fine furniture, it seems only natural that he would help build a solid career foundation for the next generation. What better way than TAPPI?
Q. Why did you decide to join TAPPI?
A. I wanted to be involved with TAPPI to gain knowledge related to the paper-based packaging area and also to share the research information that we generate on how corrugated boxes are interacting with other components of the supply chain. We are building a TAPPI student chapter within Virginia Tech and I want them to be more involved with the entire society.
Q. Please describe your involvement with TAPPI.
A. I have been a member since 2014, and I am currently serving as a VP of the Virginia – North Carolina Chapter.
Q. How has TAPPI helped you in your career pursuits?
A. My TAPPI membership helps me to be more engage with corrugated packaging companies across Virginia.
Q. Tell us about some of your interests outside of TAPPI and your professional life.
A. Traveling and exploring new cities or countries is my main hobby. I still have a lot of places in my bucket list, thus I still have a long way to go.
Q. Can you share a unique or fun fact about yourself?
A. I consistently have a pile of books on my nightstand ready for reading, yet I continue to buy new ones to add to the pile and never get to read them.
Additionally, my wife and I spent our honeymoon traveling to Bali and then around Australia. We loved
everything about Bali; it is really paradise on earth. It was just a perfect honeymoon destination (see photo of Laszlo and his wife in Bali at right). After five days in Bali we traveled to Melbourne, Australia which was a huge transition because we went from a tropical paradise to the Australian winter. Melbourne is a really friendly city and we loved to visit coffee shops and just explore the culture of the city. We only spent six days there then we visited the Red Center in the middle of Australia. It was one of the most exciting portions of our trip. We saw kangaroos in their natural habitat and met with local Aboriginal people. I never saw that many stars in the sky (they have no light pollution).
Q. TAPPI’s 100-year anniversary is in 2015. Would you provide a few thoughts on what you believe have been the most significant contributions/breakthroughs in areas of our industry? Also, what is your favorite paper or packaging product?
A. My favorite packaging product is a pallet. I know that it is not a usual choice, but pallets are important parts of the supply chain and it is fascinating how a simple structure like a pallet can make a big difference.
Q. Closing sentiments?
A. My TAPPI membership has showed me how diverse the paper industry is and my participation in meetings and conferences helped me gain life-long connections and also to identify new research areas. I would highly encourage all packaging professionals who work with paper-based products to look at TAPPI membership because, being immersed in this environment, I definitely have more appreciation toward paper-based packaging materials.