Skip to main content

Karen Leonas


Textiles Complex 3307


Dr. Karen K. Leonas, Professor of Textile Sciences, in the Department of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management.  She is a member of the graduate faculty in Textile Technology Management, Fiber and Polymer Sciences, and Textile Chemistry.  Dr. Leonas teaches a variety of classes including an introductory class, The Textile Industry, and graduate courses in Sustainability and Textile Technology Management. She has received numerous award for outstanding teaching and advising.Her research has spanned several areas and she is well known for product development, medical textiles, and reducing/evaluating the environmental impacts of textile and apparel production and consumption.  Her strengths in chemistry and polymer engineering, combined with understanding the development, production, distribution and consumption allows for insights to address sustainability through the textile and apparel supply chain.  Several years ago, she chose to focus her research on this complex and critical area.  Specifically she has investigated polymer degradation in various environments (marine, freshwater, agricultural, body fluids), microfiber release and transmission, new product development using recycled and bio materials materials (recycled PET, Nylon, PLA, Cotton, etc.), processing technologies to reduce environmental impact, and water scarcity/footprint to name a few.  She is a strong advocate for a circular economy (closed loop manufacturing) business model.  Dr. Leonas has received numerous awards and recognitions for her research.

Dr. Leonas frequently partners with industry and is on the New York Academy of Sciences Change Fashion Advisory Board, Walmart Technical Collaboration Board, Walmart Sustainability Collaboration Board, AATCC Sustainability Committee, The Sustainability Consortium – Co-Chair, Clothing, Footwear and Textile Committee, are several of her memberships.  In addition, she is active in the University and Community efforts promoting sustainable practices.

Dr. Leonas received her BS in Textile Chemistry from NC State, her MS in Clothing and Textiles from University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and her PhD in Textile Chemistry/Textile Physics with and emphasis in Polymer Engineering as part of the PATRA (Polymer and Textile Research Association) from the University for Tennessee, Knoxville.  She worked for Burlington Industries, Industrial Fabrics Division and has been on the Faculty at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, University of Georgia, and Washington State University prior to being asked to join the Wilson College of Textiles faculty.  She has served in various administrative roles including Graduate Programs Coordinator and Department Head at several of these Universities.


  • Sustainability through the Textile and Apparel Supply Chain including product development, process changes and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
  • Microfiber release and fate
  • Circular Economy/Closed Loop Manufacturing
  • Weathering and degradation of polymeric materials
  • Personal protective equipment material design and development, specifically for resistance to small particle and liquid transmission
  • Product development and evaluation (chemical and physical)
  • Surface and chemical modifications of textile and polymeric materials


  • The Sustainability Consortitum  Clothing, Footwear and Textile Committee, co-chair
  • New York Academy of Sciences  Advisory Board – Change Fashion
  • Textile ExChange  Advisory Board – Change Fashion
  • WalMart Sustainability Collaboration Board  Advisory Board – Change Fashion
  • WalMart Technical Collaboration Board  Advisory Board – Change Fashion


  • FTM 217 – The Textile Industry ,
  • TTM 508 – Sustainability through the Textile and Apparel Industry , Spring
  • TTM 710 – Advances in Textile Technology Innovation Management , Fall
  • TTM 583 – Product Development in Textiles and Apparel ,
  • TTM 491 – Exploration of the Textile and Apparel Industry in the Pacific Northwest ,
  • FTM 491 – Exploration of the Global Textile Industry – Hong Kong and China ,
  • FTM 491 – – Cotton Sustainability Through the Supply Chain ,

Additional Information

Graduate Projects

TSC Waste Water Challenge – Phase 1 Global Landscape Development

Recycled Fibers in Consumer Products

Sustainably designed garments for fast fashion

Feasibility of 3D Knitting of Tactical Combat Shirts

Foam Dyeing to Reduce Environmental Impact of Wet Textile Processing

Evaluating Hemp as a suitable textile alternative through performance evaluation and environmental impact of growing using LCA tools

Impact of Sustainability Related Terms and and Education on Consumer Purchasing Decisions

Factors influencing participation in Take-Back Programs

Textile related factors that influence fiber release during accelerated home laundering


Ph.D. Textile Chemistry/Textile Physics University of Tennessee 1985

M.S. Clothing and Textiles University of Tennessee 1983

B.S. Textile Chemistry North Carolina State University 1980

Area(s) of Expertise

Product Development
Textile Chemistry


View all publications