Specialized equipment allows students to test packaging under various handling and transportation conditions.


At the college’s Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design, students are asked to find solutions for packaging problems that companies face. The result is a collaborative effort that connects leading companies with expert professors and students eager to take on the challenges of the packaging industry.

“The center’s goal is to create a place where students, companies, and academics can interact,” explained Center Director Laszlo Horvath. “The idea is that companies needing packaging expertise or certification can come to our center. Not only will they get highly trained people to help them solve their problems, but they’re giving a new generation of students an opportunity to gain practical experience tackling real-world problems.”

“Our students can go into an interview and say that they have industry certification.”

With the continuing increase in online commerce, the demand for graduates with packaging knowledge and experience is skyrocketing. The center works to ensure that all students in the packaging systems and design major graduate with resumes that have a strong emphasis on internships and co-op experiences. In addition, the center hires several paid student interns who work on projects brought to the center while simultaneously gaining certifications they can carry into the job market.

“Our students can go into an interview and say that they have industry certification, they can do protective packaging design and testing, and they know how to use the equipment and the software,” noted Horvath, associate professor in the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials. “It makes them a lot more marketable, in terms of getting both internships and career positions.”

A key driver for the exchange between companies and Virginia Tech is the center’s recent designation as a package certification provider for Amazon and IKEA. As Amazon’s only such provider in Virginia, the center provides a crucial service to companies seeking to utilize the online commerce platform.

Virginia Tech’s undergraduate packaging program, which started in 2014, was recently cited as the fourth best in the U.S. by Universities.com, and Horvath would like to see it rise in the standings. “Packaging is relatively new to us,” he said, noting that the center’s traditional strength is in pallets and unit loads. “Right now, we’re working to bring in more partners because that will allow us to offer a more diverse experience for our students.”

“We’re also looking to become the country’s leading program in sustainable packaging materials,” he added. “Our students can help reduce the amount of waste going into landfills, and they can have very successful careers doing it. If someone wants to change the world, this a good way to do it.”