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History of the Forest Products Laboratory

Interview #988: Wolfe, Ronald W. (June, 2009)

View all of First Interview Session (September 24, 2008)

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00:14:56 - 00:19:13 FPL

FPL, initial impressions, reasons for working; personnel, background of; personnel, types of

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00:14:56

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LB

Right, right. Well maybe to go back to when you started. Do you have any memories of your first day or right at the beginning of your time here?

RW

Well I suppose like anybody, first day is a little bit uncomfortable because you are entering into a new world. I guess one of the things that was always impressive is the fact that you go through school reading these reports by these people, these scientists that you never really get to meet but the reports all played a major role in the work that you did and you came to recognize these names almost as stars you might say. To finally to get to meet all these people was well somewhat intimidating I guess you could say, it's a matter---you are finally putting a face to a name and you might have read three or four reports by each of these guys and all of a sudden you get to meet and actually to them, it was very impressive at that point. I think that's one thing about going through school in the area of forestry and wood science is you really felt that you were very familiar with the Forest Products Laboratory and that it played a major role in your training up to that point and now all of a sudden you really actually get to meet the people that had done this research.

00:16:25

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LB

Do you think that's a reason why it gets people interested in forest products and want to come work here basically?

RW

Yeah I would imagine a lot of the---when you get out of school your choices generally are you are going to go into teaching. Most anybody that goes in and gets the PhD, that's really about the only option you had at that time anyway, you either teach or now there are some companies that will hire PhDs. But PhD is somebody basically he's trained to be specialized in a certain area and generally will---most of the jobs that are available would be teaching at a university. So the Laboratory is one of the other options you had at that time, with the PhD is to come to the Forest Products Laboratory. So yeah I think there's a lot of people that go through school that way that learn about the Lab, but there is a lot of people working at the Lab that they didn't major in wood science and technology. Take a look, the Lab covers a broad range of research, some people were etymologists for instance at that time, we did have an etymology department here who studied insects. But, we always had plant pathology is another one. People that are chemists probably never even knew that much about forest products before they came to the Lab, but got hired because they were chemists.

So, I would guess maybe ten percent of the scientists that work at the Forest Products Laboratory actually had background in forestry and wood science before they came so I don't know if that was a major reason. It was something that drew me here obviously because this was the Mecca you might say of people in forestry and wood science, but I don't know how many other people were drawn to the Lab for that reason. They probably heard of it for other reasons. People in adhesives I'm sure heard about the Laboratory as far as research that had been done here and people that had been in pulp and paper chemistry for instance, a lot of those chemists would have probably heard about the Laboratory from some of the work they've done. So I'm sure that the Lab, the reports that are written from the Laboratory, they address a broad spectrum of disciplines and so I imagine that through reports, through scientific societies, it's the work that has been published by the Forest Products Laboratory that drew people here.

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