The Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering celebrates its centenary

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa .– Penn State’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering has its roots in a global pandemic and will mark its centenary among another – a unique organization marked by unfortunate circumstances.

The Spanish flu spread from 1918 to 1920, when the Machinery Department was founded in what was then the College of Agriculture. The name was changed by the university in 1932 to the Department of Agricultural Engineering, and the first degrees were offered in 1932. In 1954, the department was aligned with the College of Engineering, with degrees offered jointly by both. colleges.

“We were actually about to celebrate our 100th anniversary last year, but of course everything was postponed because of COVID-19,” said Paul Heinemann, professor of agricultural and biological engineering, who has left his post. functions of head of department on 1 July. replaced by Suat Irmak, Harold W. Eberhard Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“We had planned to celebrate our centenary with a dinner and an open house in October, but we canceled again due to COVID-related issues,” Heinemann added. “The celebration of our 100th anniversary had to be linked to the celebration of its 125th anniversary by the College of Engineering, as many of the living graduates of our department are graduates of the College of Engineering. The College of Engineering has also canceled its anniversary celebration.

The Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering is uniquely positioned to offer students specialized degrees, noted Heinemann.

“We came from Ag Sciences, but our alignment with engineering was primarily aimed at gaining recognition as an engineering program,” he said. “We had to be affiliated with the College of Engineering to be accredited as an engineering program. And this is very important because an engineering degree from an unaccredited program may not be recognized for professional positions. Our alignment with engineering was critical to the success of our students.

However, Heinemann pointed out, the program supports the agricultural industry. “Being administered by the College of Agricultural Sciences places us where we need to be of service to industry,” he said. “It’s really about the curriculum, the program and who we serve. And that’s why being part of both colleges prepares our students for jobs that require engineering expertise in the agriculture industry.

Today, the department offers two undergraduate majors and two graduate majors.

The first, the undergraduate major in Biorenewable Systems, is described as the perfect combination of sustainability, technology, science and business. It is a hands-on training on the technology, materials, best practices and systems of the worlds of biorenewables and agricultural activities. Graduates take on leadership roles in the bioeconomy for renewable product companies, agriculture support industries, entrepreneurial startups, and government agencies, or continue their education at graduate schools.

The second, the major in biological engineering, invites students “to enjoy the best of both worlds”. Because this is an engineering degree from Penn State, they will benefit from the rigor, depth, prestige, and enormous resources of the College of Engineering and the College of Agricultural Sciences.

The aim of the major is to create solutions to the challenges of sustainability in food production, organic processing and the protection of natural resources. World-class faculty challenge students to roll up their sleeves and harness engineering principles to make food, fiber and water systems and products more efficient, sustainable, healthy and less expensive.

The department also offers masters and doctoral programs in the graduate program in agricultural and biological engineering and the graduate program in biorenewable systems.

Heinemann gave some examples of specialized circumstances for which graduates of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering are prepared.

“If they are interested in machine design, they are very well qualified to design off-road equipment because they understand not only the function of the equipment itself, but also the application,” he said. -he declares. “And for water resource engineers who deal with erosion and nutrient runoff, our students have a deeper understanding of how water flows, not just through a channel or pipe. concrete, but also on open fields. And they learn how this type of flow affects water quality.

The department also trains process engineers such as students enrolled in the Food and Biological Process Engineering program, who are familiar with the manufacturing and processing processes of biological organisms, Heinemann said, adding that “it is a thing of the past. creating new products using chemicals, for example, but it’s another thing to use bacteria, fungi or mold to make products. Our students can do it. “

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