Our third Rising Star of Packaging from the 2016 Rutgers School of Engineering in New Brunswick, NJ, graduating class is Erica Wysocki. Wysocki graduated May 15 with an Applied Sciences in Engineering with a concentration in Packaging Degree. You can find out more about her two classmate/friend Rising Stars at the bottom.
Rutgers was a natural choice for Wysocki's education because, for as long as she could recall, she grew up rooting for Rutgers. For that she can thank her alumni father, but it was more than a bloodline connection that drew her to Rutgers.
“While researching engineering schools, I noticed Rutgers was always in the top for almost every type of engineering,” she says. “Rutgers was the obvious choice and I’ve never looked back.”
Tell us about yourself and your interest in packaging.
Wysocki: I am a senior at Rutgers University majoring in Packaging Engineering. I have been very involved in the Society of Women Engineering for all 4 years of college and I have been on the e-board for Packaging Club. I also joined intramural sports teams as well as participated in many of the events held at Rutgers like the Mud Run, The Big Chill, and the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon.
I went to Rutgers set on studying Civil and Environmental Engineering. Environmental science sparked my interest in high school and civil engineering seemed to be hands on, which I wanted. After learning more about packaging during my sophomore year, I realized it encompassed everything I was passionate about. I learned more about the work they did and switched to become a packaging engineering major.
What’s been your most valuable course?
Wysocki: That’s been manufacturing engineering. It is broken up into two semesters to learn about the wide variety of types of packaging and the processes necessary to make these packages. The course provides a good overview of what it takes to go from raw materials to distribution of final goods while teaching specific details involved in each step. This information helped during my internship at Nestlé where I worked under the Packaging team at the Freehold (NJ) Beverage Plant. I developed standard routines to improve efficiencies on the packaging line and performed a mass balance to determine quantity and location of powder losses in packaging process. I also conducted lab testing to validate an improved design of new jar closure by testing the secondary seal's moisture barrier. All this experience will help when working full-time in a manufacturing plant as well.
What’s the general reaction from people who know you’re studying packaging?
Wysocki: “You need to be an engineer to do that?”
I respond saying the technical skills of an engineer are needed to create packages. The critical thinking skills that we learn and develop in school help during every problem-solving session I’ve done at work.
What’s been the most surprising thing you learned about packaging?
Wysocki: I never realized the size and scope of packaging. Once you become involved, you start looking at every product and package differently. It was also interesting to learn what brands are owned by what companies. As a consumer, it is not always obvious who makes the product.
What aspect of packaging do see making an impact over the next 5 years?
Wysocki: I personally have always enjoyed working on sustainability projects. I think overall, packaging has been able to make great strides in becoming more eco-friendly. It will be fun and challenging to continue to decrease the carbon footprint packaging has on the world.
However, in my opinion, the newest trend is consumer engagement. With only a few seconds to capture the consumer’s attention in stores, companies strive to quickly attract the shopper with new technology. New advancements in this area will consist of Active Packaging and Smart Packaging. I’m excited to be able to start innovating new designs based on the latest technologies being developed.
What market segment in packaging interests you the most and why?
Wysocki: It was the cosmetic industry that initially caught my interest because of its luxurious looks and complex processes involved in making the package. However, the first co-op I had sent me to the food industry in Chicago and I fell in love. The food industry offers its own set of challenges and the familiarity with the products makes the work fun.
What are your post-graduation plans?
Wysocki: After graduation I will be starting my full-time job at Nestlé. It is a 5-year rotational program that allows me to try out multiple engineering roles, although ultimately I’m sure I’ll stick with packaging engineering.
Wysocki (right) joins classmates Ann Cierpial (Co-ed packaging engineer graduates to L’Oreal), left, and Janina Pirela (Rising Star speaks packaging, engineering and 4 languages) as Rising Stars in Packaging and freshly minted Rutgers graduates heading into the work world.
Click here for more information on the packaging engineering program at Rutgers University.
Read about last year’s Rising Star from Rutgers University, Damen Soriente, in Engineered for packaging by Rutgers University.
And read our virtual reunion, Rising Stars shine a light on packaging education, which features our first six Rising Stars in Packaging.
Interested in continuing your professional education in packaging? Join like-minded professionals at EastPack in New York City June 14 to 16 in New York City.