ACES recognizes ABE excellence

October 19, 2020

Each year, the College of ACES recognizes a select group of faculty, staff, and students who demonstrated outstanding achievements and exceptional service to the college. This year, Jamison Watson, Paul Davidson, Richard Cooke, and the IBRL team (Jedi Brown, Beth Conerty, Brian Jacobson, James Johnson, Phillip Manning, Ronda Sullivan, Vijay Singh and Eric Wolfe) belong to this distinguished group. The ABE department is proud and inspired by these award recipients for their dedication and commitment to excellence.

Jamison Watson, Ph.D. student in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, is the recipient of 2020 ACES Graduate Student Research Award. The recipient of prestigious scholarships, including a Fulbright and Jonathan Baldwin Turner Research Fellowship, and working under the direction of Dr. Yuanhui Zhang, Founder Professor in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Jamison is exploring conversion of animal and human waste into biocrude oil and potentially into a renewable source of jet fuel. Working with international collaborators, Jamison has also received a scholarship to study advanced Mandarin in China with an emphasis on the fields of history, economics, and political science, thus transcending the hard sciences to academically also excel in the humanities. Jamison is devoted to finding solutions to fossil fuel depletion, climate change, and the scarcity of fresh water in many regions.

An innovative thinker who turned science into action, Dr. Paul Davidson is the recipient of the 2020 ACES Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. Described as one of the most valuable young educators in ACES, Paul has had a significant impact on undergraduate courses in technical systems management. He has taught approximately 900 students with the goal of giving them just the right amount of detail to keep them going while not enough to arrive at a solution without thinking critically for themselves. Paul has also led students on an eye-opening Drinking Water Project in Guatemala and a study abroad program in cooperation with the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. He is leveraging funding from the USDA to develop a fellowship program for under-represented minority students to encourage careers or graduate student in the food and agriculture sector. Paul’s outstanding contributions have been recognized through numerous awards, including the 2020 A.W. Farrall Young Educator Award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

Described as a highly intelligent and extremely thoughtful engineer and scholar with a true passion for improving the quality of life for people around the world, Dr. Richard Cooke is the recipient of the 2020 ACES Senior Faculty Award for Excellence in Extension. Richard joined the ABE faculty in 1994 with a 50-50 teaching and research appointment. That was quickly revised to include a major emphasis on extension as the important practicality of his work for production agriculture became apparent. His research is cited as providing significant benefits to producers, conservationists and environmentalists, policy makers, and the drainage and land improvement industry. He continues to administer the annual drainage school and has converted the Illinois drainage guide to a digital format. He has been an influential mentor to many in the industry and the academy. His contributions have also been recognized through numerous awards, including the 2020 Gunlogson Countryside Engineering Award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers and 2020-2021 Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award.

For outstanding contribution as a collective team of faculty members and academic professionals, the 2020 Team Award for Excellence is presented to the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Lab (IBRL) team. The team consists of Dr. Vijay Singh (Director and Founder Professor in Agricultural and Biological Engineering), Brian Jacobson (Assistant Director of Pilot Plant Operations), Dr. Beth Conerty (Assistant Director of Business Development), Ronda Sullivan (Business and Human Resources Manager), Eric Wolfe (Pilot Plant Specialist), Phillip Manning (Pilot Plant Specialist), Jedi Brown (Food Service Administrator III), and James Johnson (Office Specialist). Since its opening in 2018, IBRL has established itself as a premier campus resource for pilot scale research, de-risking of bioprocessing technology, and improved student experience. IBRL has made profound impacts on the food and bioprocessing industry by researching and de-risking more than 50 projects with 20 industrial partners to develop new starches, low caloric sugars, food coloring pigments, alternative food proteins as well as optimizing unit operations related to, milling, dewatering, separations and fermentation technologies. The facility is also an excellent resource for student education – as IBRL offers a Professional Science Master’s (PSM) program in bioprocessing and biotechnology and undergraduate internships.