October 19, 2022 Recent PhD graduate named Most Promising Scientist Written By: Jason Daley Departments: Materials Science & Engineering Categories: Alumni Nayomi Plaza Nayomi Plaza, a 2017 PhD graduate of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, was recently selected for the 2022 Great Minds in STEM Award in the category Most Promising Scientist—PhD, sponsored by the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference. Plaza is currently a materials research engineer at the forest biopolymer science and engineering unit at the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, based in Madison, Wisconsin. Her research focus is creating forest products that are more durable outdoors in high-moisture environments through the better understanding of nanoscale pathways. She is currently investigating the development and implementation of novel characterization techniques using x-rays, light and neutrons to study nanostructure of wood and forest products in complex environments. “Although Dr. Plaza is the youngest scientist on my team, she has already distinguished herself as an extremely prolific and gifted thinker. She has written more than 20 peer-reviewed journal articles with more than 260 citations,” says Ken Zwick, Forest Products Laboratory assistant director of wood, fibers and composites research. “Dr. Plaza has stood out as a committed, engaged, and brilliant scientist working to make the world more sustainable by showing how wood can reduce our dependence on greenhouse gas intensive materials like concrete, steel, and plastic.” Plaza received her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Puerto Rico–Mayaguez before doing her master’s and PhD work at UW-Madison, working in the lab of MS&E Professor Donald Stone. She joined the Forest Products Laboratory in 2018.