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Greetings from Illinois!

A lot has happened since our last newsletter, and in keeping with our promise to update you on activities and events at the ABE Department, I am excited to share with you the 2020 Winter Issue of ABE@Illinois Connections. In this issue, you will read about the contributions of and updates on two of our former department heads (K.C. Ting and Al Hansen), the addition of outstanding new faculty, recognitions received by faculty and students, and involvement in an impactful program, AgrAbility Unlimited. We also have exciting events coming up. These are just some highlights in the pursuit of excellence in all of our endeavors at ABE.

I would like to thank all of you who have continuously inspired and supported the department so that it remains successful and globally relevant. We are happy to hear from you to learn more about what you are doing and how we can work together to continue our drive for the department’s success. Also, your comments and suggestions for this newsletter are very welcome.


Ronaldo Maghirang


K.C. Ting, professor emeritus and former head of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE) at the University of Illinois has found a second home with Zhejiang University, China, where he has worked since January 2017. Ting was appointed Vice Dean of the International Campus at Zheijiang University (IC@ZJU).

Ting and his wife, Shuchuang, recently gave a gift to the Engineering Visionary Scholarship (EVS) Initiative in The Grainger College of Engineering for a named fund: the Kuanchong and Shuchuang Ting ABE EVS. The EVS makes college more affordable for students and their families, and this fund will help attract the best and most diverse students to the field of agricultural and biological engineering.



Dr. Jorge Guzman is a research assistant professor in Soil and Water Resources Engineering. Guzman earned his Ph.D. in Biosystems Engineering from Oklahoma State University. He worked as a visiting research programmer for the Department of ABE from 2018 until his appointment as assistant professor. Guzman is co-principal investigator on a $500,000 grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to develop a computational tool that stakeholders can use for estimating and predicting soil erosion.


Dr. Salah Issa is an assistant professor in Agricultural and Industrial Safety and Health. Issa earned his Ph.D. in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from Purdue University in 2016. He will be teaching TSM 421 (Ag Safety - Injury Prevention) and TSM 425 (Managing Ag Safety Risk) in the fall of 2020. His current research interests include studying the safety and security considerations of artificial intelligence in new equipment arriving on farms.


Brendan Kuhns is an instructor in Technical Systems Management. Kuhns earned his M.S. in TSM at Illinois, and he is now working on an M.S. in Engineering from the University of Wisconsin. Kuhns will teach TSM 199 (Agricultural Machinery and Technology), a course which he developed. Kuhns received the 2019 NACTA Graduate Student Teaching Award, which recognizes and rewards students who are involved in classroom instruction and excel as teachers in the agricultural disciplines.


Dr. Josie Rudolphi is an assistant professor in Agricultural and Industrial Safety and Health. Rudolphi earned a Ph.D. in Occupational and Environmental Health from the University of Iowa. She teaches TSM 422 (Ag Health - Illnesses Prevention) and co-teaches TSM 421 (Ag Safety - Injury Prevention) with Dr. Robert Aherin. Rudolphi has numerous research projects that focus on beginning farmers and ranchers, children's ag injuries, and mental health in the ag industry. In addition, Rudolphi serves as the program co-director of AgrAbility, Unlimited, an Illinois extension program that promotes independence in agriculture for people with disabilities and their families.


Dr. Mei Tessum is a research assistant professor in Bioenvironmental Engineering and Agricultural and Industrial Safety and Health. Tessum earned her Ph.D. in Environmental Health from the University of Minnesota in 2015. She worked as a post-doc at the University of Washington for three years before coming to Illinois. One research project Tessum is pursuing is the use of computer vision to predict air pollution.


Dr. Ann-Perry Witmer is a lecturer in Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Witmer earned her Ph.D. in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from Illinois in 2019. Witmer's research is focused on engineering sustainability and effectiveness through context. She teaches ENG 440: International Water Project, a multi-disciplinary engineering design course in international service project development and implementation. That class will move to ABE in the next academic year. Witmer also teaches ABE 469, the senior capstone design course that develops team-based, industry-sponsored design projects.


Dr. Angela Green Miller, associate professor in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, was selected as one of Central Illinois Business’s “40 under 40” winners, class of 2019.

Miller is co-founder and president of TellTail, Inc. The startup focuses on decision support in pig production and commercializing decision-support technologies for an animal-production setting. The business received The Moore Innovation Prize at the 2019 Agriculture Innovation Technology Summit held at the University of Illinois Research Park. Miller said, “The idea for TellTail originated from the idea of taking university research and translating that into tools that are immediately accessible and easily used by producers.”

Miller’s work was also featured in a themed issue of ASABE’s Resource magazine, Ag Startups are Changing the World (page 25).




Illinois AgrAbility Unlimited, a program of University of Illinois Extension, was selected to receive a donation of $9,475.00 from Compeer Financial.

Compeer Financial is a member-owned Farm Credit cooperative providing financial products and services to support agriculture and rural communities in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Compeer, and its legacy organization 1st Farm Credit Services, has been a long-time supporter of AgrAbility Unlimited.

AgrAbility offers comprehensive assistance to individuals (and their families) engaged in farming or a farm-related activity who have been affected by a disability.

In the photo, left to right, are Jim Williams, AgrAbility field coordinator; Bob Aherin, professor emeritus in ABE and co-director of Illinois AgrAbility; ABE assistant professor Josie Rudolphi, co-director of Illinois AgrAbility; Karen Blatter-Schieler, Compeer Financial Senior Corporate Giving Specialist; and Ronaldo Maghirang, ABE department head.



Daniela Markazi graduated from the University of Illinois in December 2019, with a dual degree in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and a minor in Natural Resource Conservation. Daniela was the College of ACES's first-ever student speaker at the ACES Graduation and Convocation.

In addition to the rigors of obtaining a dual degree, Daniela created and taught her own coding class (ABE 397), she was employed as a robotics engineer at the John Deere Technology and Innovation Center in Champaign, Illinois for more than two years, and she traveled to Puerto Rico with the UIUC Puerto Rico Disaster Relief Program to aid in disaster relief.  Daniela is pursuing a Ph.D. in Informatics beginning in Spring 2020..



Dr. Alan Hansen, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and interim head from January 2018 to December 2019, retired on December 31, 2019. Hansen is nationally and internationally recognized for his expertise in research and outreach that includes biofuels, off-road machinery systems, engineering, land preparation, resource utilization, data collection and analytics, and agricultural machinery and tool design for small-scale application. He is an ASABE Fellow and a member of the prestigious Club of Bologna. The club includes the most prominent international experts on mechanization. There are 49 countries represented with 122 members, and Hansen is one of only five U.S. academics in the club.

Hansen has earned numerous teaching awards, including the Undergraduate Teaching Award, given by the Office of the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, the Everitt Award for Teaching Excellence from The Grainger College of Engineering, and the Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching from the College of ACES. Hansen has also been a “teacher ranked as excellent by the students” more than 45 times over the last twenty years. He received the 2015 Paul A. Funk Recognition Award from ACES, the college’s most prestigious award given each year to recognize outstanding achievements and exceptional service.

Congratulations on your retirement, Al – we will miss you!



Please mark your calendar for the following events in the College of ACES and the Department of ABE. We’d love to have you join us for any or all of these activities!

Thursday, March 26 – The ACES Alumni Association invites you to an ACES in Places event at John Deere in Moline, IL. Tours will begin at 5:30 p.m. with dinner following at 6:45 p.m. The cost is $20 per person and registration will open in early February.

Friday, March 27

  • The ABE Spring Awards Banquet will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Colonnades Club at Memorial Stadium. Registration details will follow on the ABE website in February.
  • Explore ACES will sponsor a fun, interactive day to learn more about the academic and career opportunities available through ACES. The event takes place from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., and it is open to the public at no cost.

Friday/Saturday, March 27/28 - Engineering Open House will celebrate 100 years of the talent and ingenuity of engineering students. The event is open to the public at no cost.


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