biobrief title graphic

December 2018   |   Vol. 8, Issue 6

head gary sands 125 px

Message from Department Head Gary R. Sands

The December BioBriEf finds us in the home stretch of the fall semester, anticipating a break to catch our breath before Act II of the academic year. It is also a time of reflection on the year’s accomplishments and opportunities. Our 2018 BioBriEfs have documented but a fraction of our student, staff, and faculty accomplishments over the year, and we hope to document these even more fully in coming issues. This month features several interesting student internship experiences, which are so crucial to the professional development of our students. We thank those that have provided these opportunities for BBE students and reach out to all of you to help us cultivate even more professional internship and co-op opportunities for our students. We also congratulate faculty, staff, and students for their awards and recognition.

Give to the Max Day at the U of M was a success this year, and we sincerely thank all of you who continue to invest in BBE and in our students! Your generous contributions truly impact the experiences of our students and help us extend the reach of BBE’s mission.

Please join me in wishing a fond farewell to Ms. Nkauj Vang, our communications specialist, who has taken a new position with the State of Minnesota. Unfortunately, this means that the BioBriEf will experience a hiatus until we refill the communications position.

We hope 2018 has been a productive and rewarding year for you, and we would love to hear more about your latest projects and activities! Please make plans to stop by BBE when you’re in the neighborhood so we can catch up—the coffee is always on! All of us in BBE wish you and yours a splendid holiday season and a Happy New Year.

Research news

Innovating plant phenotyping using hyperspectral imaging integrated with machine learning
Machine learning is reshaping the way we live. For researcher and doctoral student Ali Moghimi, machine learning is an opportunity to innovate plant phenotyping methods.

Faculty, students partner with Nature Conservancy on Cold Spring fen restoration project
A brief summary about our faculty and students working with The Nature Conservancy on the Cold Spring fen restoration project.

Education news

Professor Joe Magner planting contents of floating island. Photo courtesy of Enbridge.

Learning outside the classroom with Professor Joe Magner
This summer, the Joe Magner Lab had over 12 students working on projects from floating treatment wetlands to the large-scale river and riparian dynamics. BBE students also helped develop water and soil health metrics as part of a Hormel Foundation Grant near Austin, Minnesota. They collected data on various projects from a rain simulator in downtown Minneapolis to a large three-square mile impoundment in the Red River Valley.

All of these projects involved graduate students who needed help with data collection to build their thesis. Some of the tasks were as simple as collecting a water sample, but many tasks required our students to learn about data loggers or how to program an ISCO, use GIS, and fly a drone to photograph a study and overlay a proposed restoration or creation plan. The goal was to move students around to different jobs so they could gain experiential learning—learning they simply could not get in a lecture alone.


Student reflection: Alyssa Frickson
Senior Alyssa Frickson reflects on her experience as a student majoring in bioproducts and biosystems engineering. She will graduate in May 2019 and work full time for Land O'Lakes.

Alum spotlight: Haley Bauer '16
For alumna Haley Bauer ’16, the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Minnesota provided the perfect foundation for her career as a stormwater engineer at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Honors and recognition

  • Professor Ping Wang received a Division Plenary Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers annual meeting held last week in Pittsburgh, PA. This award is from Division 15A: Food, Pharmaceuticals, and Bioengineering, in recognition of work in biomaterials and biocatalysis.
  • Researcher Lenny Reynolds is the recipient of this year's BBE Outstanding Service Award. The award recognizes a staff member each year for their outstanding contributions. Reynolds graduated with a BBE degree and joined the department as a junior scientist in 2014. Those who nominated him for the award said the following:
    • "Lenny provides critical support in all three of our mission areas: teaching, research, and service. He does so with equal measures of effectiveness and humility."
    • "Lenny is an amazing lab tech, and we couldn't be happier with the work that he's doing to help with our class. On top of that, he's constantly going above and beyond to help students, and to try to streamline the feedback process to instructors."
  • Congratulations to researcher Brian Hetchler for 15 years of service in our department.
  • Student teams from our department placed first and second in the Student Environmental Challenge held at the 2018 Conference on the Environment on November 7. Undergraduate student team compete to prepare and present an optimal solution to a complex "true-to-life" environmental problem. The first place team recieved $1,500. The second place team received $1,000.
    • First place team: Paul Wick, Erik Lucas, Sarah Grimm, Mercedes Gohl, Francisca Dominquez
    • Second place team: Kayla Barry, Maria Camila Merino Franco

Give to the Max Day: Thank you for giving to student scholarships

Thank you to the donors who helped us raise $660 for our department's student scholarships on Give to the Max Day (GTMD) on November 15. Student scholarships would not be possible without the generosity of all our donors, and we are deeply grateful for the continued support. Thank you, all!

Interested in supporting BBE?

Give online to our BBE student scholarships today