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Dear ABE Alumni and Friends

Greetings from Illinois!

We wish you and your family well amid the COVID-19 pandemic that affects each of our daily lives. We have been navigating through this challenge with as much flexibility while remaining focused on ensuring that we are on the forefront in addressing the mission of our department.

As social distancing becomes a way of life for the foreseeable future, we want to keep you informed and stay connected to ABE@Illinois. Our department alumni, faculty, staff, and students have been continuing to fulfill our mission of addressing the grand challenges related to food, agriculture, and the environment. Keep scrolling to learn more about the inspiring contributions of two of our alumni (John Tunnell and Gary Uken) and remarkable accomplishments of our department constituents. Also, you can explore a section that highlights some of our more recent cutting edge research and extension activities.

We wish to thank all of you who have continuously inspired and supported the department. We are looking forward to hearing from you and to learn more about what you are doing and how we can work together to continue our drive for the department’s success.

Stay safe.

Ronaldo Maghirang


Alumnus John Tunnel helps ABE students “get a good start”

ABE alumnus John Tunnell says his time with the department, earning both a bachelor’s and a master’s in Agricultural Engineering, gave him the skills he needed to have a successful career outside the normal boundaries of the profession. John and his wife Marge decided to pay that success forward with the establishment of an Engineering Visionary Scholarship (EVS) for ABE students.



Ukens embody Illini Spirit

Gary Uken says being an alumnus of the University of Illinois and the Department of ABE has made him “realize the significance of attending one of the best engineering schools in the nation and feeling Illini Pride.” Gary and his wife Janet hope to help instill that same pride in ABE students with the establishment of the Gary and Janet Uken Scholarship.



Prasanta Kalita to work with Discovery Partners Institute

Prasanta Kalita has worn many hats in his career with the Department of ABE and the University of Illinois. Kalita is a professor in ABE and director of the Appropriate Scale Mechanization Consortium for sustainable intensification in food production. He has also served as Assistant Dean of Research for the College of ACES, Associate Dean for Academic Programs for the College of ACES, and Director of the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Post-Harvest Loss. In his most recent role as Presidential Fellow for the University of Illinois System, Kalita is working with the Discovery Partners Institute to develop short- and long-term strategies to enhance water and environmental sustainability and reduce food insecurity.


2020 ABE Awards

In a year that has brought unprecedented changes and challenges associated with the COVID-19 crisis, the Department of ABE took the opportunity to recognize the outstanding achievements of our faculty, students and alumni. The 2020 ABE Awards granted more than $65,000 to over 50 recipients, and we are grateful to our alumni and donors for their continuing support. 


We would like to note two alumni awards:

Dr. Paul Ellinger is the recipient of the 2020 ABE Distinguished Alumni Award. Dr. Ellinger holds a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Mechanization, a master’s degree in Agricultural Economics, and a Ph.D. in Finance, all earned at the University of Illinois. He is currently the Associate Chancellor and Vice Provost for Budget and Resource Planning at the University of Illinois, Urbana - Champaign.


Greg Trame is the recipient of the inaugural ABE Young Alumni Achievement Award. Mr. Trame is a 2002 graduate of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, specializing in Off-Road Equipment Engineering. He is currently the Director of Global Product Management – Grain and Seed for AGCO Corporation. 



ASABE Major Awards

Four professors and one affiliate faculty in the Department of ABE have been recognized by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) for their unique contributions and accomplishments in the profession of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Congratulations to Professors Laura Christianson, Richard Cooke, Paul Davidson, Prasanta Kalita and Vijay Singh! These awards will be presented at the ASABE Annual International Meeting in July 2020.

  • Laura Christianson - Larry W. Turner Young Extension Professional Award (for outstanding contributions in significantly advancing the design and implementation of denitrifying bioreactors through her applied research and outreach program)
  • Richard Cooke – G.B. Gunlogson Countryside Engineering Award (for outstanding contributions nationally and internationally in enhancing the performance, water quality, and monitoring of drainage and rainfall harvesting systems)
  • Paul Davidson – A.W. Farrall Young Educator Award (for outstanding contributions in engineering education and dedication to mentoring of graduate and undergraduate students)
  • Prasanta Kalita – Kishida International Award (for outstanding international contributions through research, education, and development in water and food and improving lives and livelihood) 
  • Vijay Singh – International Food Engineering Award (for outstanding contributions and innovation in the development and commercialization of novel corn processing and biofuels production processes)


CLMT completes successful year

The Certified Livestock Managers Training (CLMT) workshops continue to aid livestock producers in developing plans for proper manure handling procedures. The workshops are managed by Neslihan Akdeniz, a clinical assistant professor in ABE, and Jay Solomon, an extension educator and a member of the Energy and Environmental Stewardship team. The year 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of the CLMT, and Akdeniz says they look forward to celebrating and improving that service in the years to come.



Engineering projects go virtual in creative classrooms

Ann-Perry Witmer, lecturer in ABE, and ABE professor Tony Grift faced unusual challenges when classes at the University of Illinois shifted to online instruction after spring break. Witmer and Grift teach ABE courses that feature a large hands-on component. As everyone – teachers and students – adapted to rapidly changing circumstances, Witmer and Grift found ways to help students learn physical skills in a virtual world.  



Our faculty, staff, and students continue to conduct cutting edge research in addressing grand challenges on food, agriculture, and the environment. Below are the links to the articles that have highlighted some of the more current research and extension activities of the department:


Virtual Happy Hour for ABE Alumni and Friends, ASABE Annual International Meeting  |  July 13, 7-8 pm 
If you are attending the ASABE AIM in July 2020, please join us at the ABE@Illinois Virtual Happy Hour to stay connected to our department, alumni, and friends, and help us kick off our 100th year celebration.

100th Year Celebration
Since 1921, our department has been committed to addressing grand challenges related to food, agriculture, and the environment. As we celebrate our centennial year, we look forward to your support to help ensure we build upon the tradition of excellence, innovation, and engagement for the NEXT 100 years. Details of the celebration to be shared soon.


If you have any questions or comments, please contact Amanda McGuire at amcguire@illinois.edu. If you wish to unsubscribe from ABE newsletters, click on this link.