URBANA, Ill. – Five University of Illinois faculty members received major awards at the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) 2020 annual international meeting. The virtual event took place July 13 to 15. Illinois recipients include Paul Davidson, Vijay Singh, Richard Cooke, and Prasanta Kalita, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE) in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) and The Grainger College of Engineering, and Laura Christianson, Department of Crop Sciences, College of ACES.
“That number of major award recipients from one institution is very impressive and one of the best in recent years. I’m very proud of our faculty and they definitely deserve this recognition,” says Ronaldo Maghirang, ABE department head.
Kim Kidwell, dean of the College of ACES, adds, “This is fabulous news and I’m excited to see so many of our excellent researchers recognized for their outstanding achievements. The breadth and scope of their activities show how ACES faculty contribute to improving lives in Illinois and around the world.”
Davidson, assistant professor in agricultural and biological engineering, received the A.W. Farrall Young Educator award for outstanding contributions in engineering education and dedication to mentoring of graduate and undergraduate students. In addition to teaching courses, Davidson oversees the technical systems management (TSM) program, providing the lead in curriculum development and advising. Davidson is a faculty mentor for Engineers Without Borders and has travelled with students to Guatemala and South Africa. Davidson conducts research on improving and maintaining surface water systems by reducing the transport of nutrients, pathogens, and pesticides from agricultural and urban systems to waterways. His expertise led to his involvement in local and regional multi-state efforts to reduce nutrient runoff to surface water systems. He is the author or coauthor of 18 peer-reviewed journal articles, three book chapters, and more than 25 conference presentations.
Singh received the International Food Engineering Award for outstanding contributions and innovation in the development and commercialization of novel corn processing and biofuels production processes. He is a distinguished professor in agricultural and biological engineering at U of I. Singh conducts research and teaches courses in food bioprocessing engineering. He is also the director of the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory, which leverages translational research capabilities and expertise to help food and beverage, biofuels, biopolymers and other industrial biotech companies all over the world develop and improve their products and processes. Singh and his team have made profound impacts on the food and bioprocessing industry by conducting more than 80 projects with 20 industrial partners. Singh is author or coauthor of more than 270 peer-reviewed articles, conference proceeding papers, and book chapters and he holds 14 U.S. patents.
Cooke received the 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. He is a professor and drainage extension specialist in the Department of ABE. He serves as section leader for soil and water engineering and he teaches courses in drainage and water management, land and water management systems, drainage design and layout, and nonpoint source pollution processes. He is also an adjunct professor in agricultural engineering at Njala University in Sierra Leone. He conducts research on sustainable lowland development for rice production, and is involved in capacity building through workshops in GIS applications in water resources engineering, nonpoint source pollution modeling, and research methodology. Cooke is author or coauthor of more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and other publications and has created more than 10 web-accessible applications.
Kalita received the Kishida International Award for outstanding international contributions through research, education, and development in water and food, and improving lives and livelihood. He is a professor of soil and water resources engineering and a Presidential Fellow of the U of I. Kalita teaches courses and conducts research in water, food loss and waste, and agricultural mechanization. He provides leadership and develops and coordinates research priorities for the Discovery Partners Institute Water and Environment Group. He directs all activities for the Appropriate Scale Mechanization Consortium (ASMC), a multiyear project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Kalita has made significant improvements in educational programs through administration at U of I, developed institutional capacity for several countries, pioneered new educational curricula, and improved learning methods. He is author or coauthor of more than 250 peer-reviewed articles, conference proceeding papers, book chapters, and other publications.
Christianson received the 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. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I. Christianson established the Illinois Drainage Research and Outreach Program (I-DROP) focusing on agricultural drainage and conservation practices. Christianson’s outreach activities convey new and practical information about how to design and manage conservation practices like denitrifying bioreactors, saturated buffers, controlled drainage, and cover crops and how these practices reduce water pollution. This public engagement ties closely to her applied research, and involves unique groups of stakeholders ranging from producers, drainage contractors, and crop advisors to state and federal agency administrators. Christianson is author or coauthor of 49 peer-reviewed articles, one published database, one book chapter, and more than 20 other publications, reports, and extension-style articles.