Carly DeHenau – Packaging Engineer

Tell me a little about you! What is your education background, and how has your career progressed so far?

I was born and raised in Fort Gratiot, Michigan, about 1000 feet from Lake Huron. I attended Michigan State University, completing both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Packaging Sciences. Packaging Sciences includes studies in materials science, design, packaging processes, life cycle analysis, and distribution, among other topics. While studying for my undergraduate degree, I worked as an intern for 6 months at a personal care company in Chicago. For graduate school I worked on testing drug packaging for similarly-named drugs. My research focused on a new guideline requiring drugs with similar names to be visually differentiated, and whether or not this prevented healthcare professionals from confusing the two products. Very happily I concluded that the packaging changes worked! After graduating with my Master’s in 2010, I moved to Richmond to work for MeadWestvaco (MWV), which has since combined with RockTenn to form WestRock.

What is your title and role within WestRock? What is your favorite part of your job?

I’m a Packaging Engineer, and I work with packaging designers to experiment with materials to ensure they are fit for use for our customers. We perform creative experimentation and use simulations to test the product packaging and design. I love developing new testing methods for unique products. It’s fun to create a whole new process to test a design or material for functionality and use.

Can you tell me about your favorite engineering project to date? Was it while you were in school or after you started your career?

While working for WestRock, I was able to bring a product from the concept and design stage all the way through store trials. The design was for a canned goods dispenser to be placed on the shelves at grocery stores. It was similar to what you might see on the soup aisle now, where shoppers grab an item which is then replaced with the next can by gravity. This product featured a reloadable “cartridge” of 12 cans which the store employees can refill as opposed to adding one can at a time. We took the dispenser all the way to store trials before the project ended.

How did you get involved with SWE? What has been your favorite SWE activity?

WestRock sent me and several other coworkers to the national SWE conference as part of career and professional development, as well as to recruit new employees and make presentations to the conference attendees. I became involved in SWE Richmond after the conference, attending regular meetings and social gatherings. I now serve as Treasurer of the Richmond chapter, and worked this year to endow our scholarship fund through the national Society. My favorite SWE event is volunteering every year at the Girls in Science camp at the Science Museum in October!

What’s your favorite thing to do in Richmond? And hobbies or TV shows you’re currently into?

I love going to the festivals in Richmond, especially the Folk Festival every year! During the summer, I can usually be found lounging at the pool or the beach with a good book. But I also love watching Outlander!

Do you have any advice for young women about to begin a career or an education in the STEM fields?

Yes! I’ve always believed that your education is the foundation of your life, and you should never stop building upon it! Learn everything you can, and never stop striving to learn something new each day!