The undergraduate and graduate programs in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE) at Illinois have been consistently ranked as among the best in the nation by U.S. News and World Report’s annual “Best Colleges” publication. The undergraduate program has been in one of the top three spots for the last ten years, including five years as number one. The graduate program has held a top three spot for the same period, including two years as number one.
Enrollment in both the undergraduate and graduate programs has doubled in the last decade. The department offers two concentrations, one in agricultural engineering and one in biological engineering. A master’s program in technical systems management (TSM) was established in 2011.
The department has also developed two Professional Science Master’s (PSM) concentrations in recent years. The PSM is a graduate degree designed to allow students to pursue advanced training in science or mathematics, while simultaneously developing workplace skills highly valued by employers. The PSM in technical systems management prepares graduates for both technical and leadership careers in the management of agricultural and biological technical systems.
The second PSM in bioenergy centers on advanced and innovative methods of energy production and is a key component of the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory (IBRL). IBRL came under the umbrella of ABE in 2016, and our faculty’s expertise in energy and sustainability and commitment to research and development helps create a scientific and technical workforce in bioenergy and related biosciences.
Research in the department continues to be extensive and impactful, and research dollars come from multiple and diverse sources. Past funding from companies such as BP provided millions of dollars to study biomass production and provision engineering, and the department continues to work with the Archer Daniels Midland Institute to conduct significant research in postharvest loss, particularly in an ongoing collaboration with Brazil and India.
Current research projects are being funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The NSF grant funds INFEWS-ER, a virtual resource center enabling graduate innovations at the nexus of food, energy and water systems. The USAID grant funds the Appropriate Scale Mechanization Consortium, an effort to address global hunger and food security issues in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Burkina Faso, and Ethiopia.
Each research group continues in the development of their ongoing projects. Soil and water works in drainage, hydrology, and water quality and their impact on the environment. Food and bioprocess engineering continues to address the challenges of ethanol and alternative biofuel production. Bioenvironmental engineering is developing a process that will use biowaste such as swine manure to grow algal biomass and produce biofuels. They have also established a strong program in animal welfare and livestock production engineering. The biological engineering group has exciting activities in synthetic biology, biosystems engineering, and bioinstrumentation.
The department also makes a considerable contribution to the College of ACES Extension and outreach. Several Extension faculty and specialists work with farmers on livestock waste management, air quality control in livestock facilities, farm safety, drainage, and chemical applications.
The department is part of two colleges on the Urbana-Champaign campus, the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and the College of Engineering.