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Meet Dr Bronia Stefanowski

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Originally from Suffolk, Bronia studied at Bangor University – our Knowledge Transfer Partner – to study Conservation and Forest Ecosystems. The university is one of the world's leading institutions for research into modified wood. After she graduated, she secured a position at the university’s BioComposites Centre as a Research Technician, where she studied bio-based fuels and earned her doctorate.

‘I always had a great interest in the environment growing up,’ she said, ‘but I found a love for forestry at an internship at the Forestry Commission. Forests and timber are such an undervalued, sustainable commodity, an answer to climate change that is staring us in the face and many people are just unaware. There’s so much potential there. I knew I didn’t want to work in anything else.’

With over eight years’ academic and commercial R&D experience, Bronia has seen her work presented internationally and published in leading journals worldwide. She’s most interested in understanding how industries and research groups can, and should, come together to use waste/by-products as an alternative fuel source. ‘There are over 60,000 tree species known to science, and over half of them are endemic (only found in one place in the world),’ Bronia tells us. ‘As an example, LIGNIA understands the need to protect teak in its native habitat in Burma. By developing and producing LIGNIA Yacht (an alternative product for yacht decking), the high demand on species and the damage caused by unsustainable harvesting can be reduced, helping to conserve the species and the ecosystems in which they are found.’
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After initially coming to LIGNIA through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Bangor University, Bronia now works with us full time as Research and Technical Manager.

‘My role then was project-specific, with emphasis on my personal development and bridging expertise between academia and industry. My role now as Research and Technical Manager is quite different. I’m responsible for both long and short-term research, ensuring scientific rigour and precision. I most enjoy being able to share my knowledge in wood science with others who are new to the topic – it becomes infectious and people become more and more passionate about wood science too!’

 

 

Bronia now manages a team of four and has been introducing students to the business through further KTP programmes. So, how does she foresee companies like LIGNIA working with academic institutions in the future?

‘There’s still a long way to go bridging gaps between academia and industry. Wood science in the UK is undervalued and knowledge of wood as a material is limited, and at the same time, people think wood science is done to death. It’s not true. We constantly see industries misusing wood.

If companies like LIGNIA get more involved with education, at all levels, they can gain so much insight into wood science whilst showing young people where a career in wood science could lead them. It’s also showing that there are sustainable alternative materials on the market, carbon storage by wood and how its proper use of wood can significantly help combat climate change. As a one of a kind, LIGNIA needs to be involved in academia and education to provide working potentials and opportunities to apply useful science to the real world.’

 
Alice Morgan

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