Through its Data + Decisions Destination Area, Virginia Tech inventively interweaves data science into its curriculum. Meet a faculty member using data in novel and world-changing ways.

How many times have you ordered an item online, then had to return the merchandise because the box that landed on your doorstep was damaged?

As consumers in a culture of convenience, we have become accustomed to getting exactly what we want and getting it quickly, often taking for granted the packaging materials and logistics that feed these expectations.

Laszlo Horvath’s work with data in the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design makes these expectations possible. Step into the center on any given day and you’ll find packages being dropped repeatedly, stacks of boxes on pallets being crushed, or products being subjected to extreme heat or cold. And data is collected every step, drop, or crush along the way.

Much of the testing is accomplished with the help of graduate students, as well as undergraduates in the Distribution Packaging Internship Program. “We’re developing a cutting-edge program that is at the intersection of business and science, and will help prepare students to make decisions regarding this technology that will benefit their employers,” said Horvath, director of the center and associate professor in the College of Natural Resources and Environment’s Department of Sustainable Biomaterials.

This work will also benefit customers around the world. So the next time a package lands safely at your door, remember that it took a lot of testing to get it there!

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