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Profile: Western Michigan's Digital Imaging and Printing Laboratory

By Bob McIntosh
If you were raised in Western Michigan, you were probably no stranger to the numerous pulp, paper and paperboard mills that populated the area. You probably recall the texture of the wet, warm paper pulp that's hard to describe--other than it was wet and warm--or that unforgettable odor that assaulted your nose as you passed by a mill. Paper is still big business in this part of the state, but the smaller mills have been replaced by larger and fewer mills. In 1948, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Mich., and a number of paper industry executives saw the wisdom of exploiting the booming paper industry and began a program that is now known as the Department of Paper and Printing Science and Engineering (DPPSE).

This department offers its students, many of whom grew up in families that worked for the paper mills, the opportunity to obtain lucrative professional and technical positions right out of school. The department is proud to report that it places 100 percent of its students, who make no less than $50,000 annually, in the paper industry. The Department of Paper and Printing Science and Engineering is recognized as a worldwide leader in the research of paper coatings, paper recycling, inks, non-wood fibers and printing.

The Digital Imaging and Printing Laboratory
The Digital Imaging and Printing Laboratory is a program within the DPPSE that prepares its students for the field of digital imagery and printing. The program is co-directed by Associate Professors Abhay Sharma and Paul "Dan" Fleming. It is on the cutting edge of technology, offering its bachelor's students classes in lower-level graphics, prepress, digital color, digital imaging and more advanced research in color science. At the PhD level, students learn about advanced digital color printing and digital color imaging. As well, PhD students, along with faculty members, perform research on color management, assist in teaching the undergrads and operate a lab that caters to local businesses.

All students are encouraged to participate in internships at printing companies for academic credits and/or compensation. Internships are an integral component of the program, offering great hands-on experience that gives the students an advantage over students from other universities. In the Digital Imaging and Printing Laboratory, the directors believe theory coupled with internships lead to great success for their students. The mission of the department is to prepare its students to enter the workforce with the knowledge and experience that make them valuable to printing companies around the world.

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