Focusing on Research in Departmental Honors Program

The Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering participates in the College of Engineering Honors Program, geared towards high achieving students looking for challenging course work and an opportunity to do research. Honor’s students get an opportunity to work closely with professors on research projects all while taking a variety of engineering courses that are more challenging than their non-engineering counterparts. Drs. Patti Smith and Elena Castell-Perez co-coordinate the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Honors Track and meet with honors students once a semester to guide them through coursework and facilitate matching students with faculty for research.

Honor students

Students may join an honors program as incoming freshmen by completing a separate application once they are admitted.  Students may also join the honors program after the Entry-to-A-Major (ETAM) process.  However, students do not have to be enrolled in an honors program to engage in honors courses.  Students can register for honors courses one week before the start of classes.  Incoming freshman students must have graduated in the top 10% of their high school class and have an SAT of at least 1360 or a composite 28 on the ACT; while current students need to have earned a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or better.

Requirements for the honors program include completion of 18 honor credit hours, 4-6 hours of honors research, completion of the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program and maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.5. For more information about requirements click here. The non-academic requirements include meeting with the engineering Honors-BAEN Track Coordinators search semester, participate in at least one engineering honors program activity each semester, and submit an annual engineering Honors report. The non-academic requirements are intended to guide students on the right track and allow the program to accommodate the student’s needs.

Research is one of the main attractions that draws students to participate in the honors program. Students usually begin to focus on their research during their third year (junior) and complete the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program during their last year (senior). Below are some examples of research projects that undergraduate students have worked on:

Honor’s students working on fun project

  • Development and testing of a low-temperature direct methane fuel cell
  • Disposable biosensor for the detection of food-borne pathogens
  • Engineering approaches to fresh produce safety
  • Determining the effect of cultivation conditions on biomass and protein accumulation
  • Optimum growth conditions for Chlorella Vulgaris for specific macromolecule recovery
  • Development of method to predict shear viscosity of fluids for dysphagia treatment
  • Experimentation and modeling to determine factors affecting dust emissions in agricultural operations
  • Design of a traction engine for NSF/DOE ground penetrating radar system
  • Determining Aquatic Life Potential using stochastic models

The departmental honors program has grown over the past several years with 10 current students in the program.  Dr. Smith is optimistic that more students will choose to participate and hopes the program will continue to grow in the future.  Dr. Castell-Perez and Dr. Smith hope to enhance the program by offering more departmental engineering honors activities, including an Honors Seminar for the honor’s program students.

For more information about the engineering honors program, click here.

For more details about the honors program please contact Dr. Patti Smith,

Article by Stephanie Mena

For details about this news story and others please contact Emily Jacobs,

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