SPOTLIGHT: Prakash Malla
Prakash Malla, Ph.D.
When asked to relay a unique fact about ourselves, how many can lay claim to having been born and raised on a mountainside in Nepal?
TAPPI member Prakash Malla, Ph.D., can … and does. He’s come quite a ways from those modest beginnings.
He earned his doctoral degree from Rutgers University in clay mineralogy and clay chemistry, and began his career at Pennsylvania State University, spending five years developing special types of dehumidifying nanoporous and high surface area materials from silca gels, zeolites, and pillared clays for natural gas-fired air conditioning systems. For the last 22 years, he has been with Thiele Kaolin Company in Sandersville, Ga. As Manager of Research & Development, Dr. Malla and his team are involved in improving and developing kaolin products and processes for improved paper coating and filling applications. He also holds 15 U.S. patents and has had more than 40 technical papers published
Dr. Malla joined TAPPI after arriving at Thiele and has been an active member ever since. He says Thiele was not only supportive of his joining, but encouraged him to become involved in many different activities. He stresses that involvement has been very rewarding. He has served as Chair or Vice Chair on a number of Committees, including Coating Materials Common Interest Group, the Pigments Committee, the Coating & Graphic Arts (C&GA) Division Technical Program Committee, the C&GA Award Committee, the PaperCon Steering Committee, the Coating Conference, and the TAPPI Standard-Specific Interest Group. He continues to serve as the Committee Chair for revision of several TAPPI Technical Information Papers (TIPs). For his contributions to TAPPI, Dr. Malla was presented with the 2014 Coating & Graphic Arts Division Leadership and Service Award and the Du Pont Soy Polymer Prize.
So convinced is Dr. Malla of the benefits of membership, he issues a specific plea to young professionals who are in the process of establishing their careers. “My message to those who are just starting in the industry is: Please join TAPPI and get involved in TAPPI activities. You will greatly benefit personally and at work,” he says. “You can choose the activity or activities you like. It can be as simple as joining one of the Common Interest Groups, to helping in a local section meeting, reviewing and updating Technical Information Papers, revising or creating a new test method, coordinating a hot topic or emerging technology session, or even mentoring students.”
In addition, Dr. Malla also encourages employers to support and encourage membership of their employees. Return on the investment in terms of knowledge, networking and resources is measurable.“Trust me,” says Dr. Malla, “it will truly be a win-win situation!”
And, if he could, Dr. Malla would shout just that from the mountain top.
Q. Why did you decide to join TAPPI?
A.I joined TAPPI 22 years ago when I began working for Thiele Kaolin Company. At that time, I did not have a lot of knowledge of paper making and coating. So, I joined TAPPI to accelerate my knowledge in these areas. TAPPI and TAPPI’s technical resources have helped me to understand how one can build efficient coating structures using kaolin and other mineral particles in improving multitudes of coated paper performance attributes. This, in turn, allowed me to productively contribute to my company’s product development efforts. Also, my company was, and still is, very supportive of me joining TAPPI as well as getting involved in TAPPI activities.
Q. Please describe your involvement with TAPPI over the years.
A.I have served as Chair, Coating Materials Common Interest Group ; Secretary, Pigments Committee; member, Coating & Graphic Arts Division (C&GA) Technical Program Committee; and Member, C&GA Division Award Committee. I also served in the following Division capacities: Chair Emeritus, C&GA Division; Chair, Coating & Graphic Arts Division; Vice-chair/Secretary C&GA Division; Chair, Coating Conference; Chair, Technical Program Committee; and C&GA Division Steering Committee(. Other areas of service include: TAPPI Leadership Council; PaperCon Steering Committee; TAPPI Standard-Specific Interest Group; contributor to C&GA Division Operating Guidelines Supplement; and Committee Chair for revision of several TAPPI Technical Information Papers (TIPs).
Q. How has TAPPI helped you in your career pursuits?
A.My affiliation with TAPPI has benefited me greatly, both personally and professionally. TAPPI publications, short courses, and conferences have been great resources to enhance my career. Also, TAPPI conferences have provided a venue to share my scientific work with the paper industry at large.
Q. Tell us about some of your interests outside of TAPPI and your professional life.
A.I like being involved in volunteer work in the community. I have contributed personally as well as raised funds at several occasions for victims of natural (earthquakes, floods) and man-made (9/11) disasters. I have participated in local city school board strategic planning meetings. I have also been involved in local Boy Scout troop activities. I like traveling, running (now walking) and playing tennis. Dr. Malla is pictured at right with family members on a trip to Machu Picchu in Peru.
Q. Can you share a unique or fun fact about yourself?
A. At times, I find myself alone laughing at my own jokes! I have also run half-marathons and earned (once upon a time) a black belt in karate. I have begun to learn about and practice meditation. I was born and raised on a mountainside in Nepal.
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. I can cite two examples on a collective basis: (a) Ability to load as much as 50 percent or higher mineral fillers and coating pigments (e.g., clay, carbonate, titania, talc) on certain grades of coated papers which can still survive winding, re-winding, multiple color presses (with lots of water/fountain solution) and eventually conversion to a magazine or catalog; (b) Newly developed cellulosic nanomaterials - while it is still early to say what the overall impact of this material is, it is expected to impart unique and useful properties in many composite applications. In light of the growing world population and demand on food, I would say my most favorite product is food packaging (prevents spoilage and extends the life of foodstuffs) followed by light weight/ultra light weight coated paper.
Q. Closing sentiments?
A.My involvement with TAPPI and in TAPPI activities has been a very fulfilling experience, both personally and professionally. In the process, I have made a network of professional friends. These friends are a phone call or email away if you need any professional or technical help that you may have been wondering about for days. In addition, the feeling of contribution and giving back to your profession is very gratifying.