M.S. and Ph.D. programs are available in Biomechanical Systems within the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering. Students engage in a challenging program of study and in original and innovative research in machines and mechanisms which directly interact with biological materials. Research includes work with soil, plants and animals, with the objective of producing useful products. Research encompasses machinery, mechanisms and related systems with the objectives of establishing and growing both traditional and non-traditional crops, in fields, in greenhouses and in bioreactors, as well as the harvesting and processing of these products for consumption by humans or animals, or for use in industrial applications.

DEGREE REQUIREMENTS

All plans of study are tailored to individual students based on their interests and the guidance of the advisory committee. M.S. students must complete 24 credit hours of course work and 6 credit hours of research including a thesis. A minimum of 36 credit hours of course work and 24 credit hours of research beyond the M.S. degree is required for each Ph.D. student.

Each student’s advisory committee must individually approve the plan of study and research. This plan of study should include BAE courses with additional courses in engineering, mathematics, computer science, statistics, agriculture and related science. These high-quality, advanced-level courses, taught by BAE faculty and supported by well-equipped laboratories, provide students with a strong background for addressing problems in Biomechanical Systems.

Students initially take three classes per semester, completing major area and mathematics classes first. M.S. students generally take one and a half years to two years to complete their programs. Ph.D. students who are expected to complete their programs in no more than three years, usually complete their course work by the end of the second year. No less than six months before the degree is granted, Ph.D. students take a qualifying examination. This comprehensive examination is both written and oral, covering the entire area of the student’s graduate study. In addition, M.S. and Ph.D. thesis must be successfully defended before the advisory committee at the completion of the research program. A non-thesis degree option is available requiring a creative component and extra courses. A final report must be written over the creative component and defended before the student’s committee.

AREAS OF RESEARCH

Optimizing Environments for Crop Establishment

Meeting increasing demand for environmentally acceptable practices associated with crop establishment while maintaining productivity requires the development of advanced, efficient agricultural machinery. Innovative biomechanical technology must allow for new production practices such as seed priming, adaptability to newly genetically engineered and alternative crops, and the ability to establish crops in an optimum environments while being compatible with new and existing environmental regulations. Specific topics related to these issues include:

  • Developing precision high-density planting technology and equipment to optimize production while reducing dependence on certain inputs such as pesticides.
  • Determining the effects on the seed and plant environment by external factors such as compaction from grazing cattle and developing practices to relieve the adverse effects.
  • Applying new production practices such as seed priming, together with newly developed planting practices, to optimize stand establishment of alternative crops and to change plant morphology and fruiting patterns to enable the development of improved harvesting equipment and/or the mechanization of new crops.

Sensor and Control Technology

Development of a resource-efficient sustainable agriculture that produces superior quality is vital to our local and national interests. One approach in pursuit of those interests is development of sensing and actuation systems that allow the direct use of computer technology to control agricultural machines and processes. Computer capabilities are growing without apparent bounds. Potential exists to leverage this capability in improving efficiency and quality of agricultural production and processing systems. The greatest barrier preventing increased application of computer technology directly in agricultural systems is the lack of effective methods of sensing. Potential research topics include:

  • Developing soil moisture sensing systems based on thermal diffusion using incident solar radiation to supply thermal energy to the sensor.
  • Developing design processes for networked control systems.
  • Developing sonic and optical systems for detection of plant material properties.

CORE COURSES

BAE 5413: Instrumentation in Biological Process Control Systems. Analysis of transducers for online measurement and control of biological processes. Applications to agricultural production equipment.

BAE 6540: Problems in Farm Power and Machinery. Literature review and analytical studies of selected farm power and machinery problems. Written report required.

FACULTY

Michael Buser, Associate Professor
Design and evaluation of machinery used in hay, forage and bioenergy production; system logistics

Raymond L. Huhnke, Professor and
Director of the Biobased Products and Energy Center

Carol Jones, Associate Professor
Stored product engineering, packaging, storage, transportation, and logistics of biofeedstocks and physical properties of feedstock

Randy Taylor, Professor and Extension Machinery Specialist
Agricultural machinery, no-till seeding equipment, spraying equipment, precision agriculture

Ning Wang, Associate Professor
Mechatronics and instruments and controls

Paul Weckler, Associate Professor
Sensors, instrumentation and controls; image processing and machine vision; food and crop processing

FACILITIES

Student and faculty research in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering is supported by well-equipped facilities on campus and at extension sites. The main laboratory is a 28,000 sq. ft. facility, equipped with electronic, electric and machine shops. Three computer laboratories and a wide range of instrumentation are available for graduate research.