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NWI Announces Student Awards at Spring 2023 Industrial Advisory Board meeting

Students presenting at The Nonwovens Institute's May 2023 IAB meeting.
The Nonwovens Institute's Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) recognized outstanding student presentations at the May 2023 IAB meeting.

Bringing together the best of both industry and academia is a hallmark of The Nonwovens Institute (NWI). Located in the heart of the vibrant Centennial Campus of North Carolina State University (NCSU) in Raleigh, NWI is an innovative global partnership between industrial practitioners in both the private and public sectors and academia resulting in unique opportunities for graduate students across a variety of technical disciplines at the university. As noted by Dr. Constantine Megaridis, located at The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and one of NWI’s extended academic colleagues who led the Institute’s 2020 5-year Review, “Students commented upon the strength of the faculty associated with NWI and the linkage between industrial members of The Institute and their research work.”  Students highlighted that “NWI offers us an opportunity to work with ‘real world’ experts and technical leaders to a far greater degree than our peers.”

One of the most important functions of NWI’s Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) is the review of graduate student projects at its semi-annual meetings. Here, technical experts from across the industry listen to and provide feedback upon student presentations regarding their research. Each of the students is also mentored during their studies by at least two industrial or government research practitioners. Recently, three students were recognized by the IAB for their outstanding work. In addition, prior to the Spring IAB, one student was voted by their peers to receive the “Students’ Choice Award” for their excellent work in Fall 2022. 

Anicah O’Brien – “Effect of Surface Coatings on Biodegradability and Functional Properties of Pure and Blended Biopolymer Substrates”

Anicah received her Bachelor of Chemical Engineering from the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky in May 2022. Her literature review presentation focused on the understanding of how surfactant type and blending effect biodegradability of various biopolymer substrates as well as surfactant adsorption and the subsequent impact on wettability.

Anicah O’Brien presents her poster on the effect of surface coatings on biodegradability and functional properties of blended biopolymer substrates during NWI’s Spring 2023 Industrial Advisory Board meeting.

Polymers used in hygiene products include non-biodegradable polypropylene and polyethylene, both of which are hydrophilized by surfactants. It is of increasing interest to both nonwovens companies, as well as the general public, that more sustainable materials with the capability to be implemented into hygiene products be identified. While there are many possible approaches to improved sustainability, including investigation of recycled feedstocks, the current research is focused on bio-derived polymers, such as poly-lactic acid (PLA).  However, such materials are hydrophobic, thus requiring hydrophilization before use as a nonwoven top sheet. Additionally, biopolymers are commonly blended in the literature to increase flexibility.

Anicah started her doctoral studies in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at NC State last fall.  She is a student of Dr. Saad Khan of the University’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Dr. Morton Barlaz, of the Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering Department.  She is mentored by Dr. Carl Wust of Indorama Ventures (Retired), Dr. DeeAnn (“Dee”) Nelson of Avgol Nonwovens; an Indorama Ventures Company, Dr. Abhay Joijode of Berry Global, Mr. Chad Kamann of NatureWorks, and Dr. SA. Ravishankar of Saint-Gobain. 

Pallav Jani – “Fundamental Evaluation of Interaction Between Slip Agents and Hydrophilic Spin Finishes on PP Nonwovens”

Pallav received his Bachelor of Technology in Chemical Technology from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai, India and his Master of Science in Chemical Engineering from The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His presentation focused on the understanding of surface modification of polypropylene (PP) substrates by slip additives and surfactant coatings, as well as the impact of their surface interactions on friction and wettability of the nonwoven system.

Pallav Jani presents his poster on surface modification of polypropylene (PP) substrates by slip additives and surfactant coatings at NWI’s Spring 2023 Industrial Advisory Board meeting.

Nonwovens used in hygiene applications have an ever-increasing set of performance criteria and expectations by the consumers. Fluid transfer to an absorbent core is facilitated by the addition of various surfactants while aesthetics, primarily softness, may be controlled by the addition of other materials often including slip additives. Depending on whether slip additive-surfactant interactions at the polymer surface are synergistic or not, one can have either desirable control over the frictional and wetting behavior of the material or it can lead to performance issues.

Pallav is a student of Dr. Saad Khan and Dr. Lilian Hsiao; both of NCSU’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and is mentored by Mr. Thomas Broch, Dr. Tan Siew Kim and Mr. Daniel Ellingson; all of Fibertex Personal Care.

Pallav is currently a Graduate Research Assistant at NWI while pursuing his Ph.D. degree in Chemical Engineering at NC State, which he anticipates receiving later this year. He previously presented his work in 2022 via poster presentations at the IDEA®22 exhibition and conference held in Miami Beach, Florida, and at the RISE® – Research, Innovation & Science for Engineered Fabrics Conference held on the NC State’s campus in Raleigh, September 2022. Both IDEA® and RISE® are organized by INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry. Pallav also received the “Best Overall” award for his presentation at the Fall 2022 IAB Meeting.

Anastasia Timofeeva – “Dynamic, In-Situ Characterization of Failure Modes in Fiber Spinning” 

Anastasia received her Bachelor of Science in Physics from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania in 2018 and her Bachelor of Science in Engineering Science from Penn State University in 2019. Her presentation focused on the development and implementation of a high-speed polarization imaging technique for in-situ defect detection in polymer fibers during fiber spinning production.

Anastasia Timofeeva discusses her research on in-situ characterization of failure modes in fiber spinning during NWI’s Spring 2023 Industrial Advisory Board meeting.

Fiber spinning is a complex process in which many material and process parameters can be employed to optimize the production of nonwovens. During spinning, polymer fibers undergo flow-induced crystallization, which is a key variable in the final quality of the fibers and the nonwoven material. Modern, commercial fiber and nonwoven manufacturing is a high-speed process where the continuous monitoring of material inputs and process parameters is extremely important and influential to final product quality. The ability to recognize processing irregularities and provide in-situ quantitative data enables the optimization of production process parameters and minimizes downtime. Anastasia’s study can help researchers develop an understanding of why defects occur and relate polymer properties to spinning conditions. In her work, Anastasia is exploring the use of high-speed polarized light imaging to measure internal stress fields and the orientation of polymer chains within the fibers as they are being produced.

Anastasia is currently a Graduate Research Assistant at NWI while pursuing her Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering at NC State, which she anticipates receiving in December 2024.  She is a student of Dr. Kara Peters & Dr. Mark Pankow in the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and is mentored by Dr. Jill Han of Hollingsworth & Vose and Dr. Carl Wust of Indorama Ventures PCL (Retired). Previously, she received the Best Technical Award for her work at the Fall 2022 IAB meeting and presented her work at the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Smart Structures + Nondestructive Evaluation Conference in March 2023. Anastasia will be a co-student leader for the NWI Student Group during the 2023-24 academic year.

Tara Coia – “Development of Adsorbent System Against Chemical Threats”

Instituted in 2020, the Students’ Choice Award recognizes those students who make outstanding contributions in supporting the NWI community, according to a vote by the graduate student population affiliated with NWI. Tara is the fourth student to be so recognized by her peers since the award was established.

Along with her award from the Fall 2022 IAB for Best Presentation, Tara Coia was recognized with the Student Choice Award at NWI’s Spring 2023 IAB meeting.

Tara received her Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry from Philadelphia University in 2014, her Master’s Degree in Chemistry from Villanova University in 2019, and her Graduate Certificate in Nonwoven Science and Technology from NC State in May 2022. Her presentation focused on exploration of a novel approach to functional nonwovens suitable for enhancing personal protection against chemical agents.

Protection against chemical warfare agents is essential for the preparedness of troops deployed in a range of possible future combat scenarios. Activated carbon is currently used as a sorbent against such agents in multilayer composites. However, it has a limited service life and a limited capacity of adsorption, giving the products a short life span. In her work, Tara explored the use of Metal Organic Framework (MOF) particles as potential next-generation sorbents against chemical warfare agents, due to their ability to adsorb and neutralize the chemical agents. MOF particles can be attached to fibers and then formed into a functional, nonwoven fabric that would be potentially useful in improved protective garments.

Tara is a student of Dr. Behnam Pourdeyhimi, Dr. Benoit Maze & Mr. Pierre Grondin of NWI. Her work supports a customized research and development project, which illustrates yet another way interested parties may interact with the Institute. She receives external mentorship from the project’s sponsor, the US Army Development Capabilities Command Soldier Center (DEVCOM SC) and her work is supported by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).  Tara has worked in industry for several years as a Chemist and Project Leader at Dunmore; a producer of coated, laminated and metalized films. She was co-leader of the NWI Student Group during the 2022-23 academic year and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in the field of Fiber and Polymer Science at NC State, which she expects to receive later this year.  Tara previously presented her work in 2022 via poster presentations at IDEA® – the World’s Preeminent Event for Nonwovens & Engineered Fabrics, organized by INDA – the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, in Miami Beach, Florida, and also at the Chemical and Biological Defense Science & Technology (CBD S&T) Conference in San Francisco, California.  She also received the “Best Presentation” award bestowed by the IAB at its Fall 2022 meeting.

NWI, its Leadership, Faculty and Membership congratulates each of these outstanding students and wishes them well in their future endeavors.

“The opportunity for these students to present their work before a group of true academic and industry experts uniquely prepares them for future careers,” said Dr. Raoul Farer, Chairperson of the Industrial Advisory Board’s Executive Committee and Technology Director of Freudenberg Performance Materials.

“As long-time practitioners, we are also energized by interacting with the next generation,” added Dr. DeeAnn (“Dee”) Nelson, Chairperson of NWI’s Strategic Scientific Advisory Board (SSAB) and R&D and Innovation Manager at Avgol Nonwovens, an Indorama Ventures Company.

NWI is the world’s first accredited academic program for the interdisciplinary field of engineered fabrics. Based at the Centennial Campus of NCSU in Raleigh, NWI is an innovative global partnership between industry, government, and academia. NWI has over 45 member companies / organizations spanning the breadth of the Nonwovens value chain.  NWI supports more than 20 Master’s- and Ph.D.-level students pursuing advanced studies in fiber and polymer science, chemical and bimolecular engineering, wood and paper science, textile engineering, color chemistry and other disciplines. For more information, see:

North Carolina State University is a pre-eminent teaching and research enterprise that excels across disciplines and contributes more than $6.5 billion annually to North Carolina’s economy. More than 37,000 undergraduate and graduate students learn by doing — pursuing original research, starting new companies, forging connections with top employers, and serving local and global communities. NC State’s 9,000 faculty and staff are world leaders in their fields, bridging the divide between academic disciplines and training high-caliber students to meet tomorrow’s challenges. Together, they build powerful partnerships with government, industry, nonprofits and academia to remake our world for the better.