Biological and Agricultural Engineering
Specialize in water resources, bioremediation, or bioenergy. Learn to develop methods and tools to improve soil and water conditions. Understand systems for irrigation, runoff, erosion control in watersheds, stream restoration, and to protect or enhance natural and agricultural lands. Gain the skills to design and test new ways to produce biodiesel and other forms of alternative energy from feedstock such as locally grown canola oil or manufacturing waste. Use state-of-the-art software programs, GIS, and image analysis to aid in your research.
Before entering the program, determine the professor whose research interests match your own. Secure a position as an assistant in his or her lab. This professor will chair your graduate committee and guide your independent project.
Choose a program:
Master of Science: Complete a research project, and write a thesis. Coursework and thesis research generally take two years.
Master of Engineering: Complete a practical design project. Coursework and project generally take two years.
Ph.D.: Conduct research in the field of biological and agricultural engineering and produce innovative ways to advance science and engineering. Write a dissertation and publish your work. Coursework and research generally take three to four years.
Conduct an independent research or design project. Receive guidance from a graduate committee comprised of professors with valuable expertise. Present your findings in a seminar to your professors and peers. Demonstrate your work at scientific or professional meetings.
Thesis. Develop a research plan, carry out scientific data collection, and analyze your results. Example topics include studying the use of ion exchange resins to refine biodiesel from mustard and canolaor creating nutrient loading plans for a dairy operation that reduces environmental impact. A thesis is excellent preparation for work in consulting, state and federal agencies, as well as for a Ph.D. Accomplish the goal of publishing an article of your findings.
Non-thesis project. Analyze a real-world problem and develop solutions. For example, evaluate how a waste treatment plant can produce power from methane gas or conduct a case study of a historical industrial disaster such as the one in 1984 in Bhopal, India. Put together a professional paper of your project. A project is an excellent addition to your career portfolio.
Dissertation: Write a proposal for a significant scientific study. Collect data, and carefully document your results. For example, study how Giardia cysts are transported through groundwater, investigate the relationship between atmospheric heat flux and soil moisture for building global climate models, investigate the exhaust emissions and performance of biofuel produced from genetically optimized soybeans, or calculate the cradle-to-grave energy and pollution costs of biofuels from vegetable oils and food processing wastes.
Achieve independence in your research and accomplish the goal of publishing three articles of your research and findings in academic journals.
Work and learn in departmental laboratories and field studies. For example, you might:
Evaluate samples from a creek to see how phosphorous contamination is partitioned between sediment and water.
Learn state-of-the-art hydrologic sampling techniques in a special single-credit lab.
Create models of waste-to-energy processing circuits in the computing lab.
Assess the qualities of blends in the biodiesel and biofuel labs.
Study how microbes break down hazardous waste in the bioremediation lab.
Help professors with research projects on topics such as thermal conversion of biomass, vadose zone hydrology, eco-hydrology, climate, and microbe transport in bioremediation. Participate in grant-funded research projects.