University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
History of the Forest Products Laboratory

Interview #932: Miller, Regis B. (June, 2009)

View all of First Interview Session (June 12, 2008)

Previous Previous subsection

Next subsection Next



 

00:54:21 - 01:04:20 Center For Wood Anatomy Research

Center for Wood Anatomy Research; Gerry, Eloise; Kukachka, Bohumil Francis; Koeppen, Center for Wood Mycology Research, Delta, Lucid, Publishing

RealAudio Listen to this section

00:54:21

RealAudio Listen to this segment

LB

And this is all part of the Center for Wood Anatomy Research?

RM

Yes, yes.

LB

And how is that connected to the Lab?

RM

It's a, it's a [pause]. The Center, the Center for Wood Anatomy Research, in my estimation, is one of the few projects, if not the only project, that started when the Lab opened it's doors and has continued more or less doing the same thing since 1911. Now, during that time, I doubt that it was always a project acting independently as a project, because back in the day I'm not sure how they, you know, whether they had projects or how they lumped people together. So, maybe it wasn't a project, but certainly there was always somebody here. Eloise Gerry the first woman scientist, was hired to do just that. And then later she got off doing other things in her career and then Arthur Koehler was the second person who was hired right out of Washington to come in and head up that area of wood anatomy. And then after Arthur Koehler was Kukachka, after Kukachka was Koeppen, after Koeppen was me. And now after me, it's nobody. As a matter of fact, the project leader, when I left I felt sure that they were going to have this other guy named the project leader. And they messed around, next thing you know I hear that they're reorganizing everything and the project has disappeared. So, the project, now, officially doesn't exist, but we still call ourselves the Center for Wood Anatomy. I don't think anybody cares. I mean, nobody has said anything that we can't do this anymore. But, you know, there is no project leader. I mean, there is a project leader, but he's not a, he's Bob Ross who is the project leader for an engineering group; we're just part of that group. Anyway, that's our direct-line history. And then Eloise Gerry, later in her career actually came back and worked in the Center for Wood Anatomy, which wasn't called that, I'm sure. I remember when we first got that name, so it was during my, when I worked here at the Lab. So it's only been, you know, the last thirty years. But I'm not sure when it was. But anyway---I kind of remember, but I can't remember the dates, probably in the '80s I would guess.

00:56:52

RealAudio Listen to this segment

LB

Just because of a renaming sort of convention or did something happen?

RM

I think there was a reorganization and a renaming of projects. Because we became the Center for Wood Anatomy Research, and the other project that was here at the time was called the Center for Wood Mycology Research. They're still here physically, but they really are now in the Eastern Research Station or something, but physically they're here. But they're now also the same sort of thing---that their name probably exists as the Center for Wood Mycology Research, but it's not, it's probably not a project even anymore; I'm not sure. But the same---and before we were the Center, you know, I don't know what we were called. I guess I don't even remember that. Okay, yeah, well.

00:57:47

RealAudio Listen to this segment

LB

Well, sort of along the same lines as where we were a little earlier, were there any particular projects that you had that were really challenging or frustrating for you?

RM

Oh, well, I don't know that there was a frustrating, challenging, well I would say the ones I was talking about were fairly challenging. Probably the one that was frustrating was the computer assisted wood identification one. I knew what to do. I sort of knew how to go about it, but I couldn't, I couldn't get it off---well, as a government entity I couldn't hire anybody, I couldn't write a grant to get money to hire somebody to help me do it. I, I could get the computer end of things, and I figured most of that out, not all of it, but most of it. And I could get that part I working on that. What really happened, or what really was the problem was, I couldn't figure out how I could continue working on the project, because I had worked on it and I had published a couple of papers. But now, those were the beginning papers, you know, talking about the system and how it works, and why it's such a good idea and everything. Now you've got to get data. And to collect all this data, it really takes a lot of time and effort. And you say to yourself, ok, how are you going to do this? Well, you start at the beginning. Well, that's no, that's no good, I mean, you've got to start somewhere. So you say, well, I could do North American woods or something. But then you think to yourself, well, if I do this, how am I going to publish it? Because it's not a---you have to remember this is back in 1980-something. How am I going to publish something like this that is going to mean anything to anybody that---and I'm thinking career stuff, and not that it wouldn't be something that somebody likes. But they're going to say, well, when you, you can't publish it, it's something on a computer. You don't publish it. I mean, how do you publish that? And you say, well, you could, you---part of this program was, in fact, you could write descriptions. And I thought, well, that's fine, but the description, the anatomical descriptions that I would be writing are of common North American woods. And somebody's going to say, well, this is stuff that's already been published a long time ago. And if you get into your own research, you write it out. And, in fact, I did. I used that program a lot to write it out, then used this program called Delta to write, help me write the descriptions and I plugged it in. But you ended up just with another publication which was an anatomical publication, not a computer. So, it quickly, I couldn't see how it was going to work very easily. So that was a big frustration on my part because I more or less decided I had to just get rid of it. I had to drop it. I mean, I, and I took it up a couple other times, and eventually, towards the end of my career, there was another program that had come out; it's called Lucid. And I still think that that would be a good way to go. But, I just haven't, I just ran out of time and don't have a---you know, and I'm just thinking, well, again it still means that you've really got to have somebody who, who, not one person, but probably two or three, to really get into it. Because otherwise it just takes way too long to get anything saleable. And again, it's, it would be a CD. And how do you get credit for---I mean, it might take you ten years to get it done, and when you get it done, it's still one little thing. And committees, promotion committees and panels and stuff like that don't, they don't like that. They like to see forty-five publications on whatever.

01:01:55

RealAudio Listen to this segment

LB

So were you feeling a lot of pressure to publish?

RM

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Not, I don't think, not as much maybe then as people feel today, but I still felt a lot of pressure to publish, for sure. And it was hard, because of the field I was in and the other duties I had: one as project leader, two as also maintaining the collection, three as the identification, and then fourth was your research. So you had all of that. And I was, I felt it was difficult to find time to do quality research and get out your publications, as well as all this other stuff. And as a consequence, you know, sometimes you had to rely too heavily, I think, on students and some other things that---yeah, you just couldn't, you finally had to do it yourself.

01:02:48

RealAudio Listen to this segment

LB

I was about to ask if you found any particular ways of overcoming the obstacles?

RM

Well, one of the ones was trying to---and I was able to do a few of those---getting some people in here as visiting scientists, or a graduate student, and I did have a couple of those. And also, I---and summer students, and I've had some very good ones, I always thought. The person who, it was a summer student, who really got us up and running on the Web. And we're still using whatever she did way back when. And, I was going to change it, but I, they kept telling me that I, that there's going to be a different format that you have to use, and I finally said, I'm not going to change anything, if they want to change it call me up. I can't, because I can't do it, I mean, I'm not that good at---I mean I can do a few little tweakies here and there on the Web, but I can't do complete overhaul and design. That's not my forte at all. So, yeah, so, I have had some very nice summer students, some very good ones. The common name project, we used summer students quite a bit. And yes, you had to go back and edit, but that's ok. At least I didn't have to keystroke everything. And some are much better than others. I had some very good ones I think, over the years, and then some that were wastefully, just totally not good, anyway.

Previous Previous subsection

Next subsection Next




Go up to Top of Page