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Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science

A quarterly newsletter from the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.

Fall 2016

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Welcome from the Department Head

I have been in this post for almost six months and have enjoyed every minute of my time spent in the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science (BESS). The students, staff, and faculty have been most welcoming. I am learning new procedures and regulations every day.

We had a very good summer with successful tenure dossiers, student competitions, K-12 summer camps, and more. With the fall semester in session, teaching activities are in full swing. From a research and extension perspective, I believe that BESS has the opportunity to become the destination for engineering solutions for soil health and environmental issues. I am looking forward to an exciting fall!

This year's Ag Day Celebration will be held Saturday, September 24, beginning at 11:30 a.m. in the Brehm Animal Science Arena. Please join us as we celebrate 140 years of soil science and 100 years of biosystems engineering!

Julie Carrier
Professor and Head
Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science

Julie Carrier

A Dog-gone Good Cause

Smokey's Doghouse Reveal

For a group of construction science students, the Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol between UT and Virginia Tech was more than a football game, it was a chance to learn and help the community through a very special project: Smokey's Doghouse.

The BESS students constructed Smokey's Doghouse as part of the Battle of the Habitat Playhouses, which benefits Holston Habitat for Humanity. Both Smokey's Doghouse and Hokie's Castle, which was built by students in Virginia Tech's Myers-Lawson School of Construction, were raffled off in a friendly competition that allowed the students to utilize design concepts and practice hands-on construction skills for a good cause. The results were annouced Saturday at the big game, and Smokey's Doghouse was the winner. Congratulations to all who took part! Watch a video by UTIA Marketing and Communications to learn more.

Meet BESS Alumni Award Winner Sherry Wang

Sherry Wang

At the April 2016 Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science (BESS) banquet, Sherry Wang, PhD, received the BESS Alumni Award. Wang, who earned her PhD in what was then the Department of Plant and Soil Science, has had a successful career with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).

Wang obtained her bachelor's degree in the Department of Plant Pathology from the National Chung-Hsing University in Taichung, Taiwan, and went on to complete her master's degree at Middle Tennessee State University in the Department of Biology. Wang earned her PhD from UT in what was then the Department of Plant and Soil Science.

Wang's career at TDEC began more than 30 years ago. From 1986 to 1993 she served as an environmental specialist, and then as the environmental program manager from 1994 to 2014 in the Division of Water Pollution Control. Since 2014, she has held the role of environment technical fellow in the Division of Water Resources. Wang also holds adjunct faculty status in BESS and in the Department of Biology at Middle Tennessee State University.

Wang has been a leader in regulation and mitigation of point and nonpoint source water pollution in Tennessee, as well as at the national level. She has served on the Environmental Protection Agency's Region IV Nutrient Criteria Advisory Group since 1998 and was vital to the creation of the Tennessee Nutrient Reduction Framework released in 2015. Wang is a highly respected scientist, a passionate supporter of agriculture and the environment, and a good friend to many of us.

UTIA Honors Three BESS Faculty Members

Buschermohle, DeBruyn, Tyler

The UT Institute of Agriculture recognized the achievements of three BESS faculty members at its August 5 awards and promotion ceremony. UTIA awarded Mike Buschermohle with the B. Ray Thompson Award, Jennifer Debruyn with the T.J. Whatley Distinguished Young Scientist Award, and Don Tyler with the 2016 Research Impact Award.

ASABE Names Burns
as Fellow


UT Extension Associate Dean Robert Burns was inducted as a Fellow at the 2016 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE). >>Read more

Eash Earns Honors for International Work


Professor Neal Eash was awarded the 2016 Ready for the World award at the spring UT Knoxville Chancellor's Honors Banquet.
>>Read more

Faculty Promotions: DeBruyn, Ludwig

DeBruyn, Ludwig

BESS recently celebrated the tenure and promotion of two faculty members. On July 1, 2016, Jennifer DeBruyn was granted tenure in the department and was promoted to associate professor with a 75 percent research and 25 percent extension appointment. Andrea Ludwig was granted tenure in BESS and promoted to associate professor with a 100 percent extension appointment.

It's Electric!

4-H Electric Camp 2016

For twenty-five years, the 4-H Electric Camp has brought together sixth- and seventh-grade 4-H'ers from around Tennessee to strengthen their science skills.

At this year's camp, held June 28-July 1 and hosted in the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, approximately 300 campers learned from more than eighty power company volunteer teachers. Campers spent their days rotating through five learning centers: 1) home energy conservation demonstrations, 2) electric safety discussions, 3) electric car displays, 4) building electric motors, and 5) building electric meter lamps.

Mike Buschermohle, BESS professor and organizer of the 4-H Electric Camp, says the camp provides "4-H'ers the opportunity to increase their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) principles such as electricity, energy conservation, alternative energy sources, electronics, computer applications, robotics, electrical safety, engineering, and other basic sciences through hands-on learning activities."

The campers also got a taste of university lifestyle through staying in South Carrick Hall, swimming in the aquatic center, and eating in the different dining halls. The 4-H Electric Camp is made possible through a partnership of UT Extension, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, the Tennessee Municipal Electric Power Association, TVA, and other electrical industry donors.

Students Win Big in Design Competitions

Payton Smith working on a design competition project.

This July, Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science (BESS) students placed in two student design competitions sponsored by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE).

Hayden Jordan, Taylor Overton, and Jonathan Yoder under the guidance of BESS professor John Wilkerson placed first in the AGCO competition with their project, "Integrated System to Monitor Dairy Calf Feeding Behavior for Pre-Clinical Detection of Respiratory Disease." The project is an integral part of an ongoing interdisciplinary research effort to develop and integrate new sensor-based technologies to enhance early detection of animal and plant diseases.

Parker Dulin, Payton Smith (pictured above), and James Swart under the direction of BESS associate professor John Buchanan placed third in the Gunlogson Environmental Design competition with their project, "The Rural School Wastewater Treatment System." The project focused on the difference between wastewater that goes into a wastewater plant and wastewater generated by schools, which has more ammonia and less organic carbon. Thus, the design of a treatment facility for a school (as a single wastewater source) that has a regulated discharge to a surface water must be different from the design of a municipal wastewater treatment plant. This project was centered around an effort to design a sensor and control system to enhance and automate the performance of a small-scale wastewater treatment facility at a rural school.

Cultivating A-GIRL-Culture

A-GIRL-Culture Camp 2016

In some areas of rural Tennessee, the rate of female students attending college is as low as 29 percent. Although many of these rural students are raised on or around farms, many are not aware of the career options offered in agriculture and natural resources. That's where a new camp hosted by the UT Institute of Agriculture comes in.

The 2016 Cultivating aGIRLculture camp, funded by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, was held July 19-22. Collaborating on this effort were twenty-three female faculty and staff members representing every unit and department across UTIA, including Lori Duncan (PI), Andrea Ludwig, Joanne Logan, Jennifer DeBruyn, and Christine Buschermohle from Biosystem Engineering and Soil Science (BESS). Eight female undergraduate volunteers, including Kelsey Henderson, Emine Fidan, and Cassidy Quistorff of BESS, chaperoned and provided mentoring to the campers throughout the week.

The objectives of the camp were two-fold: (1) to expose and recruit female high school students from rural communities to post-secondary education and/or careers in agriculture and natural resources science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines and (2) to cultivate a climate within career spaces, classrooms, and communities that are free of gender biases and stereotypes in STEM degrees and careers.

During the day, students attended tracks modeled after the Grand Challenges of the 21st Century where they completed hands-on activities such as making ice cream, collecting and testing water samples, and planting and fertilizing lettuce in a miniature hydroponic system. In the afternoons, students visited the UT Farmers Market, UT Little River Animal and Environment Unit, and Knoxville Botanical Garden's Every Child Outdoors (ECO) Vegetable Garden, and went on a night hike with lightning bug, frog, bat, and astronomy researchers at the UT Arboretum. Camp culminated with a student presentation competition with the winning team representing agricultural leadership through a satirical 2016 presidential debate.

American Ecological Engineering Society Visits Knoxville

AEES Student Competition

In July, associate professor Andrea Ludwig and an organizing committee, in partnership with UT Institute of Agriculture, hosted the annual meeting of the American Ecological Engineering Society and its student competition.

The AEES student competition brought together engineering students from around the country to test techniques to clean polluted storm runoff. When rain falls and comes in contact with roads, roofs, or anything else impervious, it collects all of the chemicals, bacteria, and other pollutants that are on that surface and carries them into waterways, contaminating the water and harming ecosystems. Student teams designed bio-retention medias to help remove pollutants, such as nitrates and phosphates, from the runoff. They then combined different soils and materials in large tubes and poured polluted water into their system to see which combination resulted in the cleanest water. The students were able to build a device with the potential to benefit their local environment, which is what being an ecological engineer is all about. >>Read more and watch a video

It's Our Homecoming

Ag Day Banner

Join us for Ag Day! The fesitivities begin in the Brehm Animal Science Arena at 11:30 a.m., four hours before the Vols take on the Florida Gators in Neyland Stadium. Enjoy all your favorite Ag Day activities while visiting with current and former faculty, staff, and students. The fun includes music, farm animals, departmental displays, an insect petting zoo, free popcorn and ice cream, a visit from the Vols' mascot Smokey, an interactive social media wall, a ribeye meal for purchase, awards, and so much more!


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UTIAplantContact Us

Department of Biosystems Engineering
and Soil Science

2506 E. J. Chapman Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996
bess@utk.edu  ·  bioengr.ag.utk.edu

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