US Forest Service Research & Development
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  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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Joseph Jakes

Joseph Jakes

Research Materials Engineer
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
United States

Phone: 608-231-9308
Contact Joseph Jakes

Curriculum vitae (265 KB PDF)

Current Research

Dr. Jakes leads a multidisciplinary team with the mission to rigorously employ materials science principles in the study of wood cell walls with an emphasis on mechanical behavior, moisture sorption, and diffusion. Materials science encompasses the study of structure-property-processing-performance relationships. Current wood utilization efforts are hindered by the incomplete identification and understandings of these relationships. Tools to study structure and properties at these small length scales are lacking. 

This research has required the development of advanced material characterization techniques to probe structures and properties at micrometer length scales and below in wood and forest products. Dr. Jakes leads the FPL Nanoindentation Lab to accurately measure physically meaningful mechanical properties of materials at the micron-scale with an emphasis on wood cell walls. Advanced synchrotron X-ray and neutron techniques have also been identified and adapted to study the structure and properties of forest products at length-scales at and below the cellular level. The combination of these advanced materials characterization techniques have led to multiple new discoveries, including elucidating the roles of lignin and hemicelluloses in wood cell wall micromechanics, identifying nanoscale mechanisms responsible for moisture durability in wood-adhesive bondlines, and identifying diffusion mechanisms through wood cell walls.

Research Interests

  • Wood cell wall structure-property relationships with emphasis on mechanical behavior, moisture sorption, and diffusion
  • Advanced nanoindentation techniques to assess mechanical behavior at micrometer length scales and below
  • X-ray and neutron characterization techniques for chemical and structural characterization at small length scales
  • Discovery and study of new wood-inspired material phenomena

Why This Research is Important

Wood is not only the sustainable raw material of choice for our future materials, chemicals, and fuels needs, but increasing wood value and utilization is also critical to maintaining healthy forests and offsetting costly forest restoration efforts. However, advanced materials research is needed for wood to reach its full potential.

Dr. Jakes conducts research to accelerate the development of new and improved forest products and other wood-based materials. Throughout the world, a tremendous amount of effort is exerted to improve current forest products and make new forest products with improved properties for new applications. However, current research largely relies on slow and inefficient trial-and-error approaches because the fundamental structure-property-processing-performance relationships are not understood. The improved understanding of these relationships will provide researchers with new and more efficient research directions.


  • University of Wisconsin at Madison, B.S. Chemical and Biological Engineering 2005
  • University of Wisconsin at Madison, M.S. Materials Science 2007
  • University of Wisconsin at Madison, Ph.D. Materials Science 2010

Professional Organizations

  • The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS), Member (2012 - Current)
  • Materials Research Society (MRS), Member (2008 - Current)
  • Forest Products Society (FPS), Member (2007 - Current)
  • Society of Wood Science and Technology (SWST), Member (2007 - Current)

Awards & Recognition

  • Forest Products Society Wood Engineering Achievement Award – Young Engineer , 2018
    The Young Engineer Award honors an individual who has provided a valuable contribution to the field of wood engineering. This award is intended to encourage young (40 years of age or younger) engineers, researchers, or scientists with promising potential
  • TMS Young Leaders Professional Development Award , 2018
    This award provides an opportunity for young, professional members of TMS to advance in the field of materials science through participation in society activities. Through interaction with TMS division leaders, young individuals participate in the decisio
  • Presidential Award for Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) , 2012
    For innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology, and for exceptional potential to shape the future through intellectual and inspired leadership.
  • Research & Development Deputy Chief’s Early Career Scientist Award , 2012
    Annual award recognizing the top scientist in the Forest Servcie at the beginning of their research career and having demonstrated, through personal accomplishments, outstanding capability and exceptional promise for significant future achievement.
  • GMFAA Technical Employee of the Year , 2012
    Award given to top federal technical employee of the year in the greater Madison, WI area.
  • Forest Products Society 1st Place Wood Award, 2008
    Annual award given to top graduate student in forest products research by the Forest Products Society.
  • Adhesion Society Peebles Award for Graduate Research in Adhesion Science, 2008
    Award given to top graduate students in adhesion science fields.

Featured Publications & Products


Research Highlights


Advancing Understanding of Wood Damage Mechanisms

Forest Service researchers examined the diffusion of ions in wood using synchrotron-based X-ray fluorescence microscopy. The researchers found ...


Developing tools to assess mechanical properties of wood cell walls

Nanoindentation is a tool capable of probing mechanical properties at the sub-micrometer level, such as in wood cell walls, individual component ...


Improving Moisture Durability of Forest Products Using Small-angle Neutron Scattering

Moisture is the underlying cause of numerous durability issues in forest products, including decay, lack of dimensional stability, and fastener ...


Measurement of Moisture-dependent Ion Diffusion Constants in Wood Cell Walls

Diffusion constants of inorganic ions diffusing through individual wood cell wall layers were measured for the first time at moisture conditions ...


Mechanism for Diffusion through Wood Cell Walls

USDA Forest Service researchers discovered that diffusion occurs through unmodified wood cell walls via a solid polymer diffusion mechanism, whi ...


New Insight into Wood Damage Mechanisms

Wood fails because bad things start to happen when wood gets wet. Dimensional stability, mold growth, fungal attack, fastener corrosion, all are ...


Scientists study how water changes wood

Water causes a host of wood damage mechanisms such as mold, decay, fastener corrosion, and splitting. This research elucidates how water chan ...


Understanding how the organization and interactions of the atoms that compose wood control its mechanical properties

To expand the uses and efficient utilization of wood, Forest Service researchers strive to learn how manipulate its molecular-scale structure t ...


X-Ray Methods to Observe and Quantify Adhesive Penetration into Wood

To accelerate development of new and improved wood adhesives for engineered wood products, researchers are working to understand the optimal adh ...


Last updated on : 09/03/2021