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Mary Paz Alvarez' Research

Predicting the strength of plastic pails supported on flexible pallet deckboards.

Mary Paz Alvarez


Mary Paz Alvarez

Ph.D. Student.

Find Mary on LinkedIn



Mary Paz Alvarez was born in San Jose, Costa Rica and later immigrated with her parents to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States. When it came time to decide what she would do for college, she chose to go to North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. During her time there, she earned her B.S. in Sustainable Materials and Technology which is a degree that focuses on sustainable biomaterials; mostly on their uses and applications in modern day technology and products.

Mary absolutely loved her four years at NC State; she spent most of her time working for the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling, volunteering with her brothers in Alpha Phi Omega, recruiting students for the College of Natural Resources, and working for Bioresources (a lignocellulosic research journal). At the end of her junior year, she took part in a study-abroad program and conducted research at the Technical University of Berlin through a grant from the German Government under the DAAD RISE program. Mary’s research there focused on helping to develop a software named EcoMaker which is a simplified life cycle analysis software geared towards start-ups and students.

After graduating from NC State, Mary moved to Blacksburg to attend Virginia Tech and conduct research for the National Wood Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) under Dr. Laszlo Horvath's guidance. Mary has enjoyed her time at the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design especially since she has been able to investigate topics that she finds interesting. Learning about wood mechanics and the industrial applications that exist in the pallet industry has solidified Mary’s interest in wood products and their place in the supply chain. When she is not in the lab, she is most likely working on service projects with her co-ed fraternity brothers from Alpha Phi Omega and Lambda Iota Mu. Mary is also an avid biker and is currently training to bike in Oregon next year with her partner.

Research Summary:

Mary's Master's research was entitled "Investigation of the Interaction Between the Components of Palletized Drums and Pails Throughout Storage and Distribution". Mary will continue her research as a Ph.D. student researching a project entitled "Predicting the strength of plastic pails supported on flexible pallet deckboards." Mary will conduct research to investigate the interaction between pails, drums, and pallets. This research will investigate the potential load bridging and unique stress distribution caused by pails and drums, and also explores how a pallet affects the strength of pails/drums; this could offer significant cost reductions to the industry. This research will require Mary to conduct hands-on work within CPULD’s testing laboratories using multiple data acquisition systems, software, and testing machinery. Through her fellowship, Mary will be given the opportunity to publish, make presentations at conferences, and represent CPULD at industry trade shows. The results of Mary’s research will be implemented in NWPCA’s unit load design software, PDS. Her results will dramatically improve both the safety and efficiency of unit load material handling.