BAE Department Update – December 2016
The Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering has had a very successful and active year of growth during 2015-16. Research and extension funding has continued to develop, with an average of about $120K per faculty member over the last six years. Combining the AgCenter and LSU A&M research efforts, 39 proposals were submitted for $12.5 million and 10 awards were made totaling $1.26 million. Several faculty were successful with awards in the six figure range in 2015-16.
Enrollment and graduation numbers continue to increase at both the graduate and undergraduate levels due to several new developments in the programs. First, the concentration of Biological Engineering was approved for the PhD in Engineering Science, followed by approval of the LoI for a PhD in Biological Engineering by the Board of Regents. The proposal for a PhD program will be submitted prior to the end of 2016. Both of these efforts are linked to the new Fast Path Program established early in 2015 coupling the BS in BE at LSU with the MD at the Health Sciences Center – New Orleans and PhD in BE at LSU. This program has generated significant interest with 7 freshmen completing the first year in May 2016, and 9 new freshmen entering August 2016. We are working closely with HSC administration to ensure success of this new program and students within Fast Path are all academically outstanding.
Graduate enrollment remains steady at about 15 MS and 15 PhD, and we saw over 100 freshmen in August 2016, with total enrollment increasing to just over 300 students Fall 2016. Three excellent hires were made in 2016. Dr. Liz Martin has joined BAE as an assistant professor from Tulane University. Dr. Martin’s area includes system biology/genetics/cancer research. Dr. Philip Jung joined LSU after serving as a post-doc at University of Minnesota, with degrees from University of Cincinnati. His area of study focuses on biomaterials. Mr. Nick Totaro was hired as full time instructor, filling Anna Dugas’ position. Nick has already expanded his role to include development, undergraduate program leadership, recruiting and IT/lab support. He recently upgraded our computer lab, working with Tom McClure, to increase capacity to 48 seats. We are pleased to have Liz, Philip and Nick with us at LSU. Unfortunately, at the same time, we lost Dr. Dan Hayes to Penn State and Dr. Steve Hall to North Carolina State. Thus our faculty numbers remain the same, with 9 teaching faculty, 3 extension faculty, and 6 research/adjunct faculty. Dr. Cristina Sabliov is now our graduate program coordinator. In November 2016 the department posted an ad for an assistant professor position in the area of Synthetic Biology research to grow this area and to teach core courses in the BE program. Two additional TA’s have been hired to support our program in Spring 2017.
BAE faculty continue to excel in service to LSU and the profession. Faculty are engaged in national and international conferences and organizations. Faculty serve LSU on numerous committees including CxC, AgCenter Faculty Senate, Premed/Predental Admissions Committee, Promotion and Tenure, etc. Dr. Boldor received a Fulbright Award and was back in Europe in summer 2016. Dr. Boldor was awarded a Professorship from the College of Engineering & Dr. Sabliov was awarded an Alumni Professorship from LSU in 2015-16.
Our students have done extremely well with REU awards and several have received Graduate Research Awards from NSF. We also gained a Truman Scholar and Truman Scholar runner-up among our undergrads. We currently have students in graduate school or medical school at LSU-Shreveport, Vanderbilt, MIT, Tulane, Baylor, Rice, Stanford, Carnegie-Mellon, and others. Over 50% of our undergrads continue to graduate or professional schools. Two of the Tiger-Twelve are BE students this academic year. The above are all very strong indicators of the quality of our students, faculty and instruction. This became evident in September 2016 when we were advised that the BS in BE program received full accreditation for six years from ABET.
While the program is continuing to grow and develop new avenues for research and instruction, new lines of funding via development continue to lag. The focus has been on laboratory development and faculty support, but ongoing discussions have been slowed by the economy and oil prices falling. To offset this difficulty, the advisory board has been restructured to accommodate the growing biotech opportunity in engineering enhanced healthcare and target funding for faculty and equipment support, both centered around the Fast Path Program which encompasses both instruction and research around the MD degree, making it an attractive package for supporters. Key advisory council members, Foundation staff and I have continued to work with the advisory council and in 2016 we had two very successful meetings to plan and move development forward. A Development fund has been established for the Advisory Council to directly support the program and all members are encouraged to participate and/or find benefactors to participate. The target for growth of this fund is $135,000 to be on par with other similar funds in the College.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like more information about the programs in BAE.
David Constant, Professor and Head
Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering