Outreach Coordinator, Specialist, Instructor, School of Packaging, Michigan State University
The Science of Packaging plays an integral role in society because it provides a way to securely deliver products such as food, medicine and general goods to consumers all around the world. Packaging guarantees that consumer goods are preserved and protected from physical, human and surrounding environmental conditions until they reach their intended destination and use. Through fundamental and applied research at the MSU School of Packaging, packaging has developed into a 1 trillion US$ industry worldwide. The packaging research of today will create the future packages for tomorrow for such varied scenarios as distribution in outer space, drone delivery and disaster relief situations. A career in packaging research can provide an excellent opportunity to combine interdisciplinary expertise and develop a wonderful future for humanity. Those interested in learning more about packaging can earn a BS, MS, PhD or Technical Certificate from the MSU School of Packaging.
As a part of social responsibility practice, students with our program focus on learning how to design packages that are environmentally friendly and allow for products to be consumed as needed while using minimal resources. Sustainable packaging materials are materials derived from renewable sources that can be produced at high volumes without adversely affecting the environment. Packaging materials are designed to contain, to protect and to communicate the product and brand, and they are subject to an array of requirements such as mechanical, thermal, optical and barrier performance requirements derived from the nature of the product, the surrounding conditions, and environment.
Packaging materials have been developed through history, from such materials as clay for amphoras, glass for jars and bottles, steel cans for food and aluminum cans for beverages, corrugated board for boxes and polymer films for bags, to innovative structures that can adapt and respond to surrounding stimuli to deliver enhanced functionalities such as time-temperature indicators. The journey to the creation of the perfect future packaging materials is far from over. MSU packaging researchers are working on creating novel and environmentally friendly packaging structures. Today, research in the areas of sustainable chemistry to produce bio-based polymers, nanotechnology for the creation of active surfaces and sensors, and multifunctional smart/active coatings for increasing shelf life and self-cleaning surfaces, are just some of the venues in which packaging researchers are working and thriving.
We also have packaging value chain researchers who focus on the application of operations research and management science techniques in package transportation and logistics within the supply chain. Some examples of this research area are the inventory routing of reusable packages, value-based routing of recyclable packages and vehicle routing with three-dimensional loading constraints.
Overall, as a packaging scientist our students and researchers focus on getting products through today’s complex and ever-changing distribution channels. Understanding these dynamic forces and their effect on products and the packaging that is protecting them is vital in creating sustainable and efficient solutions. It is important to also avoid such costly situations like over-packaging, which is wasteful, or under-packaging, which leads to higher damage. At the basics, all products need to be protected from a combination of shock from handling, vibration from transportation, compression during storage and transport, altitude from pressure changes and temperature effects. The MSU School of Packaging avidly studies and simulates these hazards to find solutions.
Commerce is changing, namely due to the shift to e-commerce. This affects customer perceptions and purchasing decisions, so distribution packaging is not just a means to get a product from point A to point B, it is now playing an important role in selling the product and the reputation of the companies behind those products. That is what packaging distribution and dynamics researchers focus on in the School of Packaging at MSU. A career in packaging research and development provides ample opportunity for exciting transdisciplinary collaboration and engagement. We welcome students and researchers to join us at the MSU School of Packaging!
THE BRAND PROTECTION PROFESSIONAL |MARCH 2021 | VOLUME 6 NUMBER 1
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