From her undergraduate education in Argentina to an internship in Finland to graduate work in Alabama, Auburn University alumna Celeste Iglesias traveled the world to make her mark in sustainable forest products.
Iglesias recently earned the 2023 Woodworking Network 40-Under-40 Award for her impact in the forest products sector. The award is well-deserved as Iglesias’ educational experience, sustainability research and professional achievement demonstrate.
Iglesias earned a Master of Science in sustainable materials and forest products and a doctorate in surface chemistry from Auburn’s College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment (CFWE). She now works as a consultant at AFRY Management Consulting, a European company advancing sustainability.
JOURNEY TO AUBURN
Iglesias completed her undergraduate degree in her native Argentina, enabling her to be a material engineer. Soon after, she landed an internship at VTT in Finland, a research institution owned by the Finnish state, where she conducted research for three months.
Here she met Auburn Professor Soledad Peresin and decided she wanted to pursue a doctorate in the U.S., with Peresin as her advisor.
“I knew that I wanted to study abroad,” said Iglesias. “I knew I wanted to continue my studies. You cannot always come to the United States to study, so I quickly decided I am taking the opportunity.”
Iglesias arrived at Auburn in January 2017, graduated in December 2021 and stayed as a postdoctoral fellow until June 2022.
CFWE’S FIRST PRESIDENTIAL GRADUATE RESEARCH FELLOW
Iglesias not only landed at Auburn, but she also was CFWE’s first Presidential Graduate Research Fellow.
“While completing my master’s, I heard about this opportunity,” said Iglesias. “You had to have a certain amount of publications and an exceptional CV to earn the prestigious award. It required a lot of demanding work, but I am driven, so I accomplished that goal. The doors that were then opened to me were great.”
Iglesias explained that she received a scholarship for three years as a presidential fellow, so she completed her doctorate in that time.
MENTORSHIP IS KEY
After joining Peresin at Auburn, Iglesias quickly found that both she and Peresin were diligent workers who approach work similarly.
“Dr. Peresin offered me lots of possibilities, but I worked hard to earn each one,” said Iglesias. “She told me I needed to be willing to work, move out of my comfort zone and think outside of the box to succeed. She really motivated me.”
Iglesias was nominated for her recent Woodworking Network accolades by an AFRY coworker, but Peresin personally knows the type of impact Iglesias has had and will continue to have on the sustainable forest products field.
“Celeste is a thoughtful and passionate young professional motivated by a desire to help the industry benefit from sustainable wood products and emerging bio-based materials,” said Peresin.
IN PURSUIT OF SUSTAINABLE WOOD PRODUCTS
Initially exposed to the topic in Finland, Iglesias researched sustainable wood products at Auburn. Specifically, she studied how to reduce the amount of resin in wood products by utilizing sustainable materials.
“I researched how to produce a more sustainable wood panel while maintaining its mechanical properties,” said Iglesias. “I focused on reducing the number of resins because they can release chemicals that impact health. The goal is to create a greener, more sustainable product.”
In her role with AFRY, Iglesias works with large forestry companies to support their strategic decision-making on processes and overall business. For example, she may help guide a client to impact the supply chain or to bring a new product to market.
Iglesias noted her Graduate Certificate in Supply Chain Management Innovation from Auburn’s Harbert College of Business helped her make the jump to this type of job.
Alabama is a long way from Argentina and Finland. But as the Woodworking Network and Peresin easily recognize, Iglesias has found her way and positively impacted her field on the journey.
(Written by Amy Burtch)