Ching-Hsun Huang has been named head of the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials in the College of Natural Resources and Environment. Huang brings an extensive background in natural resources economics and forest management to the position.

“The Department of Sustainable Biomaterials is uniquely positioned to demonstrate how an academic department can contribute to problem-solving in the context of advancing technologies,” said Huang, who comes to Virginia Tech from Northern Arizona University, where she recently served as interim executive director of the School of Forestry.

“We will remain a successful collaborator, working with all stakeholders to develop new products and markets, addressing the global demand for greener products one solution at a time,” she added.

Paul Winistorfer, dean of the College of Natural Resources and Environment, noted that Huang is joining the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials at a crucial moment.

“The foundational discipline formally referred to as wood science is transforming nationally and globally, with a broader inclusion of other renewable materials,” Winistorfer said. “The department has the breadth, depth, and one of the strongest strategic collections of faculty expertise in North America, and we are in a great place to create a curriculum that will carry us forward into the next decade.”

Huang’s current research focuses on understanding sustainability, energy balance, and emissions from Rocky Mountain forest restoration efforts. She is the co-principal investigator of a collaborative project funded by a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She believes that a central mission for the field of sustainable biomaterials is clarifying the impact that the field can have on broader global challenges.

“The Department of Sustainable Biomaterials aims to lead in the effort to reduce the carbon footprint and lessen impacts on the environment,” Huang said. “To address this challenge, strong efforts should be made to emphasize the importance of using the best science, training, faculty, and facilities to provide sustainable biomaterials solutions that will improve land and resources conservation.”

Huang is also committed to fostering the connections that will enable students to understand the impact that sustainable biomaterials can have on broader global challenges of climate change and pollution.

She has received numerous citations for her teaching, including being named an Educator of Influence and Teacher of the Year at Northern Arizona University.

“Teaching has enriched my life in many ways,” Huang said. “I invest tremendous effort in teaching, and, in return, I learn from my students. As we transfer knowledge and advise students, we inspire them to reach their full potential. We should always believe that the future leaders are in our classrooms today.”

To meet that promise, Huang has strived to increase access for students from diverse backgrounds. She worked to increase recruitment of Native American students to the forestry program at Northern Arizona University, and she promises to broaden access to students at Virginia Tech.

“Education can help create opportunities, especially for underrepresented students,” Huang said. “I will increase outreach to underrepresented students by showcasing our success stories and delivering a clear message that this is where they belong.”

Winistorfer added, “I look forward to working with Dr. Huang during the dynamic years ahead. She is a celebrated teacher, and her expertise in the science and economics of carbon in the forest sector will bring a unique perspective to the department and the college. We are fortunate to have her join our college in this senior leadership role.”

Huang begins her tenure as department head in January. She will be taking over for Professor Audrey Zink-Sharp, who has served as interim department head since June 2019.

Written by David Fleming