History of ABE

Like similar departments at most Land Grant universities, this department is jointly administered by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering.  The budget is administered by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and is divided into the three components of instruction, research and extension.  All budget expenditures are divided into these categories, however, the budget division probably does not necessarily reflect the true division of efforts. 
 
Although this section concentrates on the recent history of the department, some prelude is necessary to understand our current situation.  The agricultural engineering program was initiated with the appointment of a Meteorologist and Irrigation Engineer in 1891.  He was succeeded by three other persons with titles of Professor of Mathematics and Irrigation Engineering, Civil and Hydraulic Engineering and Irrigation Engineering.  In 1906, G. E. P. Smith was appointed as Irrigation Engineer, a position in which he served until 1955.  He had been a Professor of Civil Engineering (within the Agricultural Experiment Station) since 1900 and authored Engineering Department Bulletin No. 1, "The Use of Portland Cement in Arizona," in 1905.  The Irrigation Engineering (within the College of Agriculture) faculty grew to two in 1908 and three in 1917.
 
The name "Agricultural Engineering" was first applied to the department in 1923.  However, the work remained almost exclusively in the water resources and irrigation areas until an engineer specializing in farm machinery was added in 1946.  The major was called "Rural Engineering" from 1914 to 1920 and "Irrigation Engineering” until 1927 when it became "Agricultural Engineering."  The program really constituted an agricultural mechanization, rather than an engineering curriculum, until 1957.  At that time, the existing program was renamed "Farm Mechanization" and an Agricultural Engineering major was established in the College of Engineering. Dr. Kenneth K. Barnes was recruited from Iowa State University to become head of the Department of Agricultural Engineering.
 
In 1972, the department was combined with the Agricultural Chemistry and Soils Department and the two programs were jointly administered for 13 years as the Department of Soils, Water and Engineering.. The reasons for the original merger are somewhat obscure.  Dr. Barnes became the head of the merged department and successfully balanced the needs of the two programs.  Dr. Barnes was an experienced successful administrator with an excellent reputation in the engineering profession.  In 1977, he suddenly died and the department had several acting heads until Dr. Wilfred Gardner, a soil scientist, replaced him in 1980.  Agricultural Engineering began to languish; vacant positions went unfilled, resource allocations were perceived to be inequitable, space allocations were not in accord with program needs. Positions that were traditionally in the agricultural engineering area were changed to the soil and water science area.
 
In 1979, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology evaluated the agricultural engineering program and put it on probation.  Probation, known as a "show cause," requires that the institution show cause why the accreditation should be continued beyond three years or even be re-evaluated.  The three-year accreditation is given under "show cause" as a courtesy to students who have enrolled in the program and the institution has time to make corrections, even though the program was found to be below minimum standards for accreditation.  Accreditation is very important to engineering programs because graduation from an accredited program is part of the procedures to eventually become a registered professional engineer, a primary career development step for our graduates.  The institution did "show cause" and the program was re-evaluated in 1982.  The evaluation did not show sufficient improvement, and ABET's action was "Not to accredit."  This provided sufficient stimulation to the University to make changes.  Rapidly, vacant positions were filled, capital allocations were made to improve undergraduate laboratories, the program was separated and the Department of Agricultural Engineering was re-established. 
 
In 1985, the Department of Soils, Water and Engineering was divided into two separate departments: the Department of Agricultural Engineering and the Department of Soil and Water Science. This era, including about three years as a separate department, consumed considerable effort in creating a departmental infrastructure and departmental staff, fighting for sufficient space to operate, and dividing the "possessions" of two programs that had operated as one department for a lengthy period.
 
The "new" department was lead temporarily by two different acting heads.  In 1986 Dr. Gene M. Nordby was recruited to lead the rebuilding of the department.  He aided in choosing the faculty to fill the final position several months before he arrived.  He had a full cadre of faculty when he started his administrative tour.  This included 13 faculty positions, 4.6 technicians (0.4 FTE of one technician was still shared with SWS), but an inadequate office staff of 2.75 FTE.  The faculty consisted of ten instructional\research positions and three in extension\research.  In the latter category, a full-time assistant research engineer was stationed at the Yuma Agricultural Center and two extension personnel were stationed on campus.  In 1988, Dr. William Rasmussen, formerly Director, Western Computer Consortium and Associate Research Professor, Remote Sensing Specialist, joined the faculty after the termination of Consortium activities.  This brought our faculty positions to 14, a high point. We did not get our own accountant until 1989; until that time an accountant stationed in SWS also handled accounting for Agricultural Engineering.
 
In the fall of 1986, the department underwent an evaluation by ABET under the regular cycle.  This was successfully carried out with re-accreditation for three years, with considerable advice on how to improve the program. In 1987, significant national changes in agricultural engineering began in earnest.  The change was driven by the change in employment in the agricultural industry.  While the employment level in the industry has remained relatively stable since the early 1900's when 80%-90% were engaged in the direct production of food and fiber, job opportunities have broadened considerably to include engineering associated with the rapidly developing field of biotechnology. Most programs were still concentrating on production and not on the follow-up activities.  In 1987, Project 2001 - Engineering for the 21st Century, and International Conference for Administrative Heads of North American Agricultural Engineering Departments, was held.   Recommendations were made for name changes of departments.  Our Department name was changed to Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, effective Jan. 1, 1990.  As the only traditional engineering program that requires a significant biological science base along with mathematics and the physical sciences, the trend was to strengthen the thrusts in the biological/biochemical/food/process engineering aspects of our field. 
 
In 1990-91 budgetary problems began to emerge and filling positions was delayed. (Unfortunately, we had vacant positions under recruitment when budget cuts were made.)  The vice Wiersma position was canceled and removed from the budget.  Likewise the vice Fleischman position was canceled and removed from the budget.  This temporarily aborted our new thrust into the biological area.  In 1991, Dr. Hart retired and re-filling his position in the water quality area was delayed for several years.  Also, in 1991, the extension irrigation engineer, Dr. Tom Scherer, resigned to move to North Dakota. The loss of these positions brought our instructional/research faculty down from eleven to eight by mid 1991.
 
In March 1991, Dr. Nordby retired from the headship and returned to teaching.  Dr. Donald Slack, Professor, assumed the headship on an acting basis, which soon became permanent.  He has lead a re-evaluation of the program to fit within the resources available through several faculty strategic planning sessions.  These strategic planning exercises refined our research and instructional programs to a more clearly defined bi-modal focus on “agricultural water resources” and “biosystems engineering”.  Based upon this re-focusing, we defined two faculty positions in Biosystems Engineering and began to look for ways to acquire these positions.  Our present program in Biosystems Engineering maintains that dual focus with minor adjustments through annual and periodic planning exercises.  It is a viable one, which emphasizes our traditional strength in the "water" area, but has changed to include a greater emphasis in the application of engineering to biological systems.
 
In 1989, with the retirement of Dr. Frank Wiersma, the technician position associated with his line was converted to graduate assistantships, thereby reducing the number of technical staff positions to 3.6 FTE.  During the budget reductions of 1990-92 a second technician position was reduced by 60% and ultimately the entire line was given up to budget cuts, leaving us with 2.6 FTE technical support staff in 1992.  In addition, a secretary line was given up to budget cuts in 1991 leaving us with office support staff of 3.0FTE (an administrative assistant, an accounting assistant and a secretary) which continues to be the level of staff support in the departmental office in 2008. Dr. Ed Martin joined the faculty as the Extension Irrigation Engineer, stationed at the Maricopa Agricultural Center in 1992.
 
In the fall of 1992 we underwent the regular cycle accreditation visit by ABET and received an “IR” accreditation which means that we were accredited for three years with the possibility of an extension to six years with the submission of a report which adequately addressed weaknesses identified in the visit.  These weaknesses were primarily associated with allowing students with non-calculus based physics into engineering courses and the advising of transfer students.  Both were adequately addressed in the interim report to ABET in 1995 and our accreditation was extended to 1999.  In 1993, Dr. Wayne Coates transferred to the Office of Arid Lands Studies bringing our faculty numbers back to eight.
 
In 1992, Dr. David Shoup became Associate Dean and Director of Academic Programs in the College of Agriculture.  Dr. Shoup’s degrees and background were in Agricultural Systems Management and he requested that his academic “home” be Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering.  The faculty concurred and he was appointed as a Professor in the Department.  While in that position, Dr. Shoup undertook development of a unique degree program in Agricultural Systems Management (ASM) in Yuma. The details of this program (now run by Dr. Stephen Poe) are provided in Section E of this report and in Appendices G-2 and AM-AM-2.  Initially the program was administered through the office of the Associate Dean.  However, in 1996, Dr. Shoup resigned as Associate Dean and transferred to the Department as a regular faculty member.  At that time administration of the degree program was moved to the ABE Department.  It was offered as an option in the Agricultural Technology Management Program until 1999 when it became an independent program approved by the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR).
 
The CSRS review of our research and extension programs in 1993 and the Academic Program Review of 1992-93 provided us and our clientele an opportunity to take a fresh look at our new directions. A significant outcome of those reviews was a recommitment by the faculty to move forward with our Biosystems engineering thrusts while maintaining the water resources engineering strengths. The reviews were also helpful to College of Agriculture Administration in that they reinforced to the administration the validity of our thrusts and our strategic plan.  Thus as the budgetary situation began to be less serious (it never has been “good” in Arizona in the last 18 years), we began to define and fill some critical faculty positions.  The first to be filled was the “vice Hart” position in the Water Resources Engineering area.  Dr. Peter Waller joined the Department as an Assistant Professor in January of 1994 and has developed a strong teaching and research program in the area of irrigation and water resources engineering with a special focus on precision agriculture.  Dr. Christopher Y. Choi also joined the Department in August, 1994.  His expertise is in heat and mass transfer and he has developed a strong research and teaching program in this general area with applications to water resources engineering. Given his background in mechanical engineering, he has developed a “thermodyamicsThermodyamics” class which relates to biological systems as well as a more advanced course, “Advanced Biosystems Transport Phenomina”.  He also assumed responsibility for the CAD class (ABE 320) which he has significantly modified and which is taught to large numbers of students in Engineering.  Drs. Waller and Choi were both promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2000.  Dr. Nordby retired at the end of August 1994 leaving us with a net faculty strength of nine.
 
Dr. Joel Cuello joined the Department in January, 1995 as an assistant professor.  Dr. Cuello has a background in Biological Engineering, which thus allowed us to finally begin to configure our research and teaching thrusts in this area.  He has particular expertise in controlled environment life support systems and has developed a strong extramurally funded program in this area.  He also has expertise in bioreactor systems for root cultures and other plant parts and has continued research in that area as well.  Dr. Del Fangmeier retired in December 1995. 
 
In April, 1997 Dr. Mark Riley joined the Department as an assistant professor in the Biosytems area.  Dr. Riley has a background in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering and his hiring has added both breadth and depth to our Biosystems Engineering focus.  He has defined a strong research program. In April, 1997, Dr. Robert Roth was named as Resident Director of the University of Arizona, Maricopa Agricultural Center and, at the same time, re-joined the Department as a tenured Professor. Dr. Roth contributes to the Department through service on graduate student committees and on Department standing committees such as the Promotion and Tenure Committee.
 
Dr. Shoup resigned from the University of Arizona in August, 1997 to become a Distinguished Professor at the University of Tennessee at Martin.  The ASM program in Yuma had matured to the point that planning authorization had been approved by the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) and it became apparent that it was essential to locate a faculty member in Yuma to direct the program.  Dr. Stephen Poe joined the faculty in July, 1998 as Professor of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering and Coordinator of U of A Academic Programs in Yuma.  At that time, Dr. Kathryn (Kitt) Farrell-Poe (Stephen’s spouse) also joined the Department as an Associate Professor of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering with research and extension duties in the area of water quality.  She has subsequently become the water quality coordinator for extension programs in Arizona and was promoted to Full Specialist and Full Professor in 2005.  Dr. Poe’s primary appointment is in instruction with a small percentage (10%) in extension.  Dr. Farrell-Poe has a three-way split in her appointment in instruction, research and extension.  In 2007, all faculty located at Agricultural Research Center’s had their appointments split between their home departments and the center.  Thus, Dr. Farrell-Poe’s appointment is split 61% in ABE and 39% at the Yuma Agricultural Center. Similarly, in July 2007 Dr. Martin’s appointment was changed to 51% ABE and 49% MAC.  However, in November, 2007, Dr. Martin was named Associate Director for Extension (half-time) and his appointment in ABE was reduced to 26% at that time (he is 50% associate director and 25% at MAC). Dr. Martin was promoted to Full Specialist and Full Professor in 2004.
 
In the fall of 1998 our BS-ABE program underwent the regular cycle accreditation visit by ABET.  The University of Arizona was among the first to have their Engineering programs evaluated using the “ABET 2000” criteria which is a review based on program outcomes.  Our program again received an “IR” accreditation, which means that we were accredited for three years with the possibility of an extension to six years with the submission of a report which adequately addressed weaknesses identified in the visit.  There was a single weakness cited which indicated that, although we had begun an assessment process, we had not yet applied results to improvement of the program.  Steps were taken to make improvements in the program and a report submitted to ABET by January 31, 2002 documenting the outcomes assessment and their application to program improvement was accepted by ABET and the program granted accreditation to the next general review  in 2004.
 
Mr. Bob Frietas joined the Department as an Associate in Extension in July, 1999, transferring from Arid Lands Studies and Soils, Water and Environmental Sciences.  Freitas’s primary expertise is in the area of animal waste management and compliments the department efforts in the water quality area. 
 
Dr. Gene Giacomelli joined the Department in August of 2000 as a Professor and Director of the Program in Controlled Environment Agriculture.  This program was funded by the state legislature in 1999 and includes research and extension programs with faculty in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, Plant Sciences and Agricultural Technology Management.  Dr. Giacomelli’s appointment includes efforts in instruction, research and extension.  
 
Dr. Kenneth Jordan retired from the Department in January of 2001 and Dr. Kathryn Hatch who had transferred to the Department as a full professor in July, 2001 retired in December, 2007.  Dr. Dennis Larson, whose expertise was in the area of systems analysis and energy engineering retired in July, 2006.
 
Dr. Jeong-Yeol Yoon was hired as an Assistant Professor in July, 2004 to cover the “Biosensors” area.  He has a background in both Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering and has developed a strong research program focused on developing “lab-on-a-chip” technologies for pathogen detection.
 
Dr. Choi was promoted to Full Professor in 2006 and Dr. Riley was promoted to Full Professor in 2008.
 
Dr. Pedro Andrade-Sanchez was hired as Assistant Specialist and Assistant Professor in August 2007 to develop a research and extension program in Precision Agriculture at the Maricopa Agricultural Center (MAC).  His appointment is 51% in ABE and 49% at MAC.  Funding for his position and that for a Specialty Crops Mechanization engineer was provided in a “decision package” passed by the Arizona State Legislature in 2006.  Dr. Mark Siemens was hired as an Associate Specialist and Associate Professor in February, 2008 to fill the Specialty Crops Mechanization position at the Yuma Agricultural Center.  His appointment is 51% in ABE and 49% at YAC.
 
Dr. Murat Kacira was hired in October 2007 as an Associate Professor with expertise in Controlled Environment Agriculture Engineering. He teaches an undergraduate level course on Biosystems Thermal Engineering with focus on Thermodynamics, Heat Transfer and Fluid Mechanics, and undergrad/graduate course on Applied Instrumentation in CEA. His research focuses on computer vision systems in CEA, climate control, computational modeling for aerodynamics in CEA systems, and alternative energy integrated CEA systems.   
 
Dr. Lingling An was hired in August, 2008 as an Assistant Professor of Biometry (also called biological statistics) in ABE and as an Assistant Professor in the Graduate Interdisciplinary Program in Statistics and the BIO5 Institute.  Her position is funded for the first two years by the BIO5 Institute with the understanding that she is an integral part of the Statistics GIDP. She will also assume some teaching and advising responsibilities in ABE.  Dr. Dean Billheimer was hired in November, 2008 as an Associate Professor of Biometry in ABE and Professor of Statistics and the BIO5 Institute. He is also the Director of Statistical Consulting for the U of A campus.  Dr. Billheimer’s position is funded for at least the first three years by the BIO5 Institute as part of the effort to strengthen Statistics on the U of A campus.  These hires have provided the Department additional focus in the biological area by including Biometry, especially applied to large biological data sets (genetics, etc.), as an area of strength in the department research and teaching portfolio.
 
Faculty in the Department currently consists of the following personnel:
 
Dr. Lingling An, Assistant Professor of Biometry.
Dr. Pedro Andrade-Sanchez, Assistant Extension Specialist and Assistant Professor, Precision Agriculture, Maricopa Ag. Center.
Dr. Dean Billheimer, Associate Professor of Biometry and Campus Director of Statistical Consulting.
Dr. Christopher Y. Choi, Professor, Heat and Mass Transfer.
Dr. Joel L. Cuello, Associate Professor, Biosystems Engineering.
Dr. Kathryn Farrell-Poe, Extension Specialist and Professor, Water Resources and Water Quality, Yuma Ag. Center.
Mr. Robert Frietas, Associate in Extension, Animal Waste Management.
Dr. Gene Giacomelli, Professor, Controlled Environment Agriculture.
Dr. Murat Kacira, Associate Professor, Controlled Environment Agriculture.
Dr. Edward C. Martin, Extension Specialist and  Professor and Associate Extension Director, Water Resources Engineering, Maricopa Ag. Center.
Dr. Stephen E. Poe, Professor and Agricultural Systems Management Program Coordinator, Agricultural Systems Management.
Dr. William O. Rasmussen, Associate Professor, Computer Applications, Watershed Hydrology.
Dr. Mark R. Riley, Professor, Biosystems Engineering.
Dr. Robert L. Roth, Professor and Resident Director of the Maricopa and Citrus Agricultural Centers, Water Resources Engineering.
Dr. Mark Siemens, Associate Extension Specialist and Associate Professor , Specialty Crops Mechanization, Yuma Ag. Center.
Dr. Donald C. Slack, Professor and Head, Water Resources and Irrigation Management.
Dr. Peter M. Waller, Associate Professor, Water Resources and Water Quality.
Dr. Muluneh Yitayew, Professor, Water Resources and Irrigation Engineering.
Dr. Jeong-Yeol Yoon, Assistant Professor, Biosensors and Controls.
 
In the past 13 years, staff changes have been significant in a number of areas.  Staff assist faculty and students in all aspects of teaching and research activities.  In August 1996, Ms. Kimberly Mathieson joined the department as an accountant.  At the same time the department obtained a ½-time position for an accounting assistant, senior thus increasing our office support staff to 3.5 FTE.  Kimberly served the department very successfully until she transferred in 2006 to KUAT-TV where she was named Chief Financial Officer.  In 1998, Mr. Lou Stevens retired. His position was shared 40% with SWES and 60% with ABE.  Upon his retirement, each department took their share of the salary and did not replace the position with a jointly shared individual.  The ABE Department put some additional funding into the line to make it a full-time position and hired a new Mechanician Senior thus bringing our technician support staff back to 3.0 FTE (although one FTE, John Tiss, is shared with the entire college).  In August 2000, a fourth technician position was added with the Controlled Environment Agriculture funding and in the spring of 2000 a one-half time technician position was provided by the college as part of a faculty retention package.  This position has been increased to 3/4 –time using grant funding.   In July of 2001, the College of Agriculture and Life Science approved funding for a ½-time Computer Support Technician to be shared equally between the ABE Department and Nutritional Sciences.  Each of the Departments then made up the remaining salary from “soft-money” sources to bring the line up to 1.0FTE.  Unfortunately, as the budget situation has deteriorated over the past seven years, we have lost many of these positions so that the Department now has only a Business Manager, Sr. (Ms. Brenda Lee), a Program Coordinator (Ms. Daniala Ibarra) who manages both graduate and undergraduate student programs and records and an Adminstrative Assistant (Ms. Bernadette Capossela) in the main office on campus and an Adminstrative Assistant (Ms. Connie Hackathorn) at the Controlled Environment Agricultural Center.  We still have a ½-time technician serving the biological engineering faculty on campus, a technician serving the Controlled Environment Agricultural Center and an Instrument Shop Supervisor (Mr. Charles DeFer) who manages the ABE shop at the Campus Agricultural Center.  Since 2002, we have lost an electronics technician (John Tiss), the Mechanician at the shop (Jack Keating) and the accounting assistant line.  In summary, our present level of technical support is 2.5 lines and staff support is 4 lines for the Tucson-based aspects of the Department.  Drs. Andrade (MAC), Siemens (YAC) and Farrell-Poe (YAC) each have one staff or technical support person funded on “soft” money.
 
To develop and assess strategic plans, the Department holds yearly one day factuly and staff retreats (usually in January) and more extensive reviews on a 6 year basis.  The Department held such a comprehensive two-day planning retreat in May of 1991.  An outcome of this retreat was a more focused definition of the Department Goals and Objectives in general and a commitment to move to research, teaching and extension programs which focused primarily on the two areas of water resources engineering (including irrigation and water quality) and biosystems engineering.  Another outcome of the retreat was a departmental strategic plan and a commitment to have annual, one-day faculty retreats each January prior to the beginning of classes to review and update the strategic plan and work on other issues that could not be covered in one-hour faculty meetings.  We have adhered faithfully to the schedule.  In addition, we have had extensive two-day planning retreats at the conclusion of each five-year term of the department head.  The last such retreat was held in May 2005.  An outcome of that retreat was a renewed commitment by all faculty to the dual focus areas of water resource and biosystems engineering, as well as a commitment to our Agricultural Systems Management academic program in Yuma.  The strategic plan was also updated at that retreat. The most recent version of the strategic plan (which was last updated in January, 2008) is included as Appendix A-1 in this report.
 
In 1995, an Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Advisory Council was formed with membership including alumni, current undergraduate and graduate students, leaders from industry and government agencies and agricultural leaders.  The overall objective of the council is to provide advice and guidance to the department in all aspects of its teaching, research and extension programs.  The By-Laws of the council are provided in Appendix B-3 of this report.  A list of current membership is included in Appendix B-4.  This council has been especially helpful in reviewing our undergraduate BS-BE program curricula and providing feedback for improvement of the program.  They have also served as a valuable “sounding board” for our research and extension programs.  The council generally meets once each year. Recently, the meetings have been held the Friday before homecoming. In 1999, an ABE Scholarship Endowment Committee was also formed with the goal of raising funds for endowed scholarships to be awarded to ABE undergraduate and graduate students. Some of the Scholarship Committee members are also members of the Advisory Council although they have different chairs.  The two committees do meet on the same day each year.  The current “fair market” value of the endowments is about $155,000.
 
In the spring of 2002 the Department underwent a comprehensive review of its Academic, Research and Extension Programs (a combined APR/CSREES Review). The review team developed a set of eight primary recommendations which have helped guide the department and its faculty in improving academic, research and extension programs over the past seven years. 
 
Undergraduate enrollment in the BS-BE program has increased significantly since the last review in 2001-02 (from 48 to 90) and the growth appears to be continuing.  At the same time, graduate enrollment has remained relatively stable at around 35 for several years.
 
In the fall of 2004, we underwent a regular cycle ABET Accreditation Review and, for the first time since establishment of the Engineering program, received an NGR (next general review) outcome. This meant that the Biosystems Engineering program had been accredited for a full six year period until 2010. The reviewer raised only one concern, that our undergraduate students did not have adequate space and equipment to undertake class projects, study together and develop reports, etc.  To address this concern, the department established a small student computer room with nine computers, a printer and a study table.  This room is used extensively by both undergraduate and graduate students and has been well received by all of them.
 
Capital infusions have generally been inadequate.  However, several of the new faculty have obtained “start-up” funds from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the BIO5 Institute.  These start-up monies have ranged from $55,000 to $190,000.  New faculty have been able to purchase laboratory and other equipment required to get strong research programs underway.  We have also used indirect cost recovery and income from fixed-price contracts together with matching funds from the College to upgrade teaching facilities and assist with purchase of replacement vehicles.