CFANS announces new BBE department head

August 02, 2022

A message from Dean Buhr:

Dear Colleagues,

I’m delighted to announce that Hua Zhao, PhD, has been named the new head of the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering (BBE), effective August 28.

Dr. Hua Zhao, the new head of BBE.

Professor Zhao earned his PhD in chemical engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. After a postdoc at Rutgers University that focused on food science and active packaging, Zhao rose through the faculty ranks at Savannah State University and served for four years as chair of the Department of Chemistry and Forensic Science.  He spent four years as chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley before moving on to his current position as professor and chair of the Chemistry Department at Howard University. 

Zhao is committed to increasing diversity in STEM fields, with a focus on recruiting and training underrepresented students for graduate studies so that they have an increased opportunity to become the next generation of researchers and faculty. Zhao also has an impressive research record including more than 80 publications and substantial grant funding from NSF, NIH and others in the areas of biocatalysis (for biofuels, medicinal molecules and CO2 capture), biodegradable polymers, coal liquefaction, and ionic liquids.

As department head, Zhao plans to integrate his core values – collegiality, transparency, and shared governance – across BBE. In his most recent role, he worked closely with colleagues to propose and revise new undergraduate and graduate programs, complete two Comprehensive Program Reviews (CPR), lead course evaluation and program assessment as a part of the ACS certification process, prepare and submit the ACS-CPT periodical and annual reviews, as well as assist with ABET-accredited BS program review. With his experience and credentials, Zhao will be a valuable asset to our leadership team, and I look forward to working with him.

I also want to extend my gratitude to the search committee for their diligence during and investment in the hiring process.

  • Frances Homans, Department Head, Applied Economics, Committee Chair
  • Brett Barney, Associate Professor, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering 
  • Erin Cortus, Associate Professor, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering
  • Omar Espinoza, Associate Professor, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering
  • Carolann Knutson, Graduate Student, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering 
  • Kate Niederer, Human Resources Consultant, CFANS 
  • John Nieber, Professor, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering
  • Shri Ramaswamy, Professor, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering
  • Susan Seltz, Administrative Director, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering
  • Terrence Simon, Ernst G. Eckert Professor of Mechanical Engineering, College of Science and Engineering
  • Sumil Thakrar, Joint Postdoctoral Associate, Applied Economics and Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering

Please join me in welcoming Hua Zhao to the University of Minnesota and to CFANS.


Brian Buhr

Director, Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station
Professor, Department of Applied Economics