Last week the Texas A&M University department of biological and agricultural engineering at College Station celebrated its 100-year birthday.
The celebration showcased some of the department’s outstanding contributions to agriculture and some of the historic changes that have occurred in agricultural mechanization over the past century.
The department has changed, too.
“Recently, agricultural engineering has expanded to encompass biological and agricultural engineering,” said Russell McGee, Texas A&M AgriLife Research engineer, College Station, “which really takes what we’ve always done at the macro level in terms of processing and storage and utilization of food and fiber products down to microscopic level. We’re able to look into the genetics and nanotechnology of food for pharmaceutical use.”
The agricultural and engineering department was established as an independent department within the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas on July 6, 1915. Agricultural engineering related courses had been taught under the agronomy and civil engineering departments for several years, but in 1915, the discipline was recognized as distinct and worthy to be a separate department.
Agricultural Engineering began with just one faculty member, Elmer Gee. Today, 100 years later, the department has 37 faculty members, 310 undergraduates (engineering freshmen enter as sophomores so this number doesn't include freshmen) and 100 graduate students, extensive research and Extension projects, and contributes engineering solutions to a variety of fields including water resources, renewable energy, food processing, food safety, environmental quality, and precision agriculture.
In 2001, the name was changed to biological and agricultural engineering to more fully recognize the changing curriculum taught within one of Texas A&M's oldest educational departments. Degrees are offered in two majors: biological and agricultural engineering, and agricultural systems management.