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Spring 2007 - Long way

Destination Purdue > Spring 2007 - Long way

A long way from grandfather's wood shop

By Tristan Emery

Daniel Warner is the only technician in Purdue University's Wood Research Laboratory. The job encompasses everything from sweeping floors to attending trade shows and conferences. He also has to operate and know every piece of equipment well enough to teach novices how to use them safely.

Daniel Warner

Photo provided by Kiely Clark

Daniel Warner, a wood products manufacturing technology major from Tell City, Ind., compares his job as the technician for the Purdue W ood Research Laboratory to having a pop quiz every hour in a different subject.

That's quite a lot of responsibility for a college sophomore. "Working in the lab is definitely a challenge," said Warner, a wood products manufacturing technology major from Tell City, Ind. "Imagine having a pop quiz every hour about a different subject. That's how some days are in this lab."

His job goes far beyond just knowing his equipment. He also supervises all experiments and projects that go on in the lab. "Basically, this means that if something is going to take place in the lab, I need to know about it," said Warner. So, he keeps track of everything in the lab including how long experiments and projects take to complete. Tracking projects allows him to monitor the machine operators, making sure they are authorized and qualified to use them.

Eva Haviarova, director of the Wood Research Laboratory and assistant professor of wood products engineering and furniture strength design, said Warner has a knack for working with natural products, which makes him a great lab technician.

Demand high for wood products grads
By Tristan Emery

Careers in wood products are hot. "Companies make requests every day for future employees with woodworking skills," said Eva Haviarova, director of the Purdue University Wood Research Laboratory and assistant professor of wood products engineering and furniture strength design. "This industry is booming and there are not enough students to fill these positions."

The Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources offers several study options for students (including majors and minors) that focus on wood products. Anyone with a passion for natural materials and wood products is welcome to take classes offered by the department, Haviarova said.

Find out more:

Purdue GOinAG
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources
FNR majors
Purdue University Wood Research Laboratory
Daniel Warner's website

"I have not seen Daniel's experience in a student before," she said. "He was the top candidate for this position because of his skill level and understanding of wood products."

Warner's interest in wood products began when he was still in elementary school. He said he benefited from his grandfather's wood shop, which he began using when he was 12. The wood shop started off as just a clubhouse for Warner and his younger brother, but he quickly discovered an interest in woodworking there. His first real project in his grandfather's shop was a cedar jewelry box, which he made to impress a girl who had helped him through a difficult time in his life. "I don't know if she liked it, but I do remember a really long hug," said Warner. "She always had it centered on the dresser in her room."

Wood products manufacturing technology students have a variety of experiences because their major allows them to cooperate with the College of Technology a nd the Department of Visual and Performing Arts in the College of Liberal Arts. However, because of his unique role, Warner has gained more experience than the average student.

While students learn about current research from their professors, Warner experiences that research firsthand. He often is involved either in running a testing machine or cutting samples. He also sees every graduate student's research go from conception to completion, including all the pressure and mishaps along the way.

"When working on projects with professors and graduate students, I find myself coming up with my own experiment concepts," said Warner. "But right now I don't have the time to do real research."

Naturally, students bring their problems and challenging situations to Warner. He said that when anyone comes to him for advice, it makes him realize that he has come a long way from his grandfather's wood shop. "Often, it's not only what I tell people, but what they observe me doing in the lab," he said. "Other students learn from watching me work, so I check myself to be sure what I say and do is correct and safe."

His conscientious efforts also have caught the attention of the faculty. "Daniel has a great way of connecting with other students and passing on his knowledge and experience in a very 'camaraderie-like' atmosphere," said Rado Gazo, associate professor in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources.

Even with his hectic work and class schedules, Warner said he still finds time to take advantage of other departmental opportunities. Last year, he studied in Costa Rica during spring break. He said the experience gave him the opportunity to observe the differences in global wood technology and sawmills. Warner was intrigued because some sawmill practices are identical to those in the United States, while others are very different.

"Visiting the Costa Rican sawmill was the most memorable part of my trip, because I could travel thousands of miles and 'talk shop' to someone who doesn't even speak the same language as me."

Warner has some advice for college freshmen. "Get to know the professors early on. If you have an interest in woodworking you already have something in common with them, even if you aren't good at it."