Iowa State’s agricultural and biosystems engineering program ranks best in country

Bird’s eye view of Iowa State University’s new Biorenewables Complex which was completed in 2014. (Iowa State University.)
Jake Slobe | October 12, 2016

Iowa State University’s agricultural and biosystems engineering undergraduate program was recently ranked No. 1 in the country by U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Best Colleges.

The report stated that, “Students who enroll at this major research, land-grant university experience a unique personal, welcoming environment, and a rich collection of academic and extra-curricular programs that help them discover their own individual greatness.”

Department Chair Steven Mickelson credits much of the ranking to the university’s new Biorenewables Complex. The complex, consisting of Elings Hall, Sukup Hall and the Biorenewables Research Laboratory, opened in 2014 and offers cutting-edge classrooms and laboratories.

While the new complex has been significant in boosting the level of ISU’s engineering department, it is just one of many changes within the program in the last few years.

In the summer of 2013, ISU teamed up with the Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) to invest in a 3-D metal printer that will contribute to students’ learning. The new laser printer has been building parts for Iowa manufacturers since last fall and allows students to learn about the advantages of adopting metal 3D printing as part of the design and manufacturing process.

The department has also recently acquired a state-of-the-art water flume.  The new water flume allows students to simulate Iowa streamflow which assists them in crop research.

“These two new pieces of technology are used for teaching and learning that gives great experience to help students with jobs and research,” Mickelson said.

Mickelson also attributes the ranking to the program’s growth in undergraduate and graduate students. The program has seen a 46 percent increase in undergraduate students and a 25 percent increase in graduate students over the last 5 years.

He emphasizes the importance of hands-on learning experiences in the classroom. He says hands-on learning curriculum accounts for 38 percent of all classes in the department.

“Hiring high-quality faculty, getting the right people on the bus to being with is what makes this department great.”

USDA: 95% of Iowa corn is genetically engineered

Cedar Falls cornfield. Photo by Parshotam Lal Tandon; Flickr
Cedar Falls cornfield. Photo by Parshotam Lal Tandon; Flickr

New data released by the US Department of Agriculture shows that 95 percent of Iowan field corn is genetically modified, compared to 93 percent nationally.

Genetically engineered corn includes herbicide tolerant (HT), insect resistant (Bt), and stacked gene varieties that are genetically altered to serve specific purposes. HT crops are designed to survive exposure to specific herbicides, Bt crops are toxic to particular insects, and stacked gene crops have both traits.

Concerns have been raised about various negative consequences of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), including loss of biodiversity and corporate control of agricultural resources.

The report comes in the wake of a recently introduced bill that would increase market regulation and federal control of GMOs. The bill has since been referred to the Subcommittee on Health.


Judge Halts GMO Corn Planting in Mexico

Photo by Iguanasan; Flickr

A federal judge in Mexico issued a ruling early this month suspending any planting of genetically modified (GMO) corn in the country.   The legal ruling came in response to a suit filed by local non-governmental organizations seeking a permanent ban on GMO corn in the country.

To learn more, follow this link.  

Engineering soybeans to feed a growing world

Photo by jhyerczyk; Flickr

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is predicting record levels of soybean production in 2013, following a trend of increased soybean yields in recent years. This trend can be attributed to groundbreaking research carried out by Midwestern scientists. Continue reading