UF Agricultural and Biological Engineering Graduate Program Ranked No. 3 by U.S. News & World Report

As an engineer in the pharmaceutical industry, Enrique Orozco-Lopez, 35, felt he could be utilizing his skills to do more for the environment. After going back to school for a master’s degree with a focus in hydraulics, Orozco-Lopez came to the University of Florida to continue his education in the agricultural and biological engineering Ph.D. program.

“I’ve always been environmentally conscious,” Orozco-Lopez said. “I come from a water scarce region called Murcia, Spain. We have a lot of water pollution and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to study hydrology. Maybe one day I can go back home and help improve their water quality issues.”

Recently, the agricultural and biological engineering graduate program at UF climbed from No. 4 to No. 3 in the nation in a tie with the University of California – Davis, Cornell and Texas A&M, according to the 2020 U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools rankings.

The agricultural and biological engineering department is part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). Students can choose to earn their graduate degree in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) or the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.

The agricultural and biological engineering discipline is important in addressing many global problems our society faces today, such as climate change, food production and scarcity, and water quality and quantity, among others. Areas of research in this department at UF include: agricultural production engineering, land and water resources engineering, information systems, packaging engineering and biological engineering.

“People, like myself and Enrique, are drawn to this field when they have a desire to do something professionally to address a greater good,” said Kati Migliaccio, professor and chair of the UF/IFAS agricultural and biological engineering department.

The department typically serves 70-80 graduate students at a time. Migliaccio said there are a multitude of professional development opportunities for graduate students in the department including a writing course to guide graduate fellowship applications and research proposals, a graduate student organization, poster and video competitions, experiential learning activities and a graduate mentoring program for new students.

“We really try to provide as much as we can so that when our students graduate, they can walk out the door, feel confident and be successful,” Migliaccio said. “There is a commitment by the faculty to put the students first, as all CALS departments do. They truly care about the students’ success.”

A student in the agricultural and biological engineering program is likely to have at least some kind of international exposure while at UF, whether it’s traveling for international research or working with well-known experts visiting Gainesville. Faculty who teach agricultural and biological engineering courses also incorporate collaborative, hands-on projects with other universities across the world, including Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

“Agricultural and biological engineering at UF is quite diverse in the fact that we do a lot of traditional agricultural subjects as well as research in ecological effects, new food systems, and soil and water engineering,” said Greg Kiker, professor and graduate coordrinator of the UF/IFAS agricultural and biological engineering department. “We have a lot of professors in cutting-edge fields and international research, giving students a lot of freedom to chase their topic of interest.”

Won Suk Lee, a professor in the UF/IFAS agricultural and biological engineering department, specializes in precision agriculture. Traditionally, precision agriculture has been used for grain crops in the Midwest, Lee said. However, Lee and his graduate students experiment with and develop new technologies for using precision agriculture on specialty crops as well as tree and nursery crops.

“This is one reason why our program is ranked higher than others,” Lee said. “We have been working on developing a system to count the number of oranges in trees, detecting citrus greening through tree canopy imaging, predicting strawberry yield, and counting insects on leaves that can cause damage to food production.”

Technologies like the ones Lee and his students design can help growers increase produce yields and focus their energies on addressing low-yielding areas.

Individuals who are looking to change careers or want to enhance their qualifications for a current profession can begin taking coursework through UF’s agricultural and biological engineering graduate program. Some courses are available online. Those who are place-bound can complete the online agroecology master’s program through the agricultural and biological engineering department.

“If you have an interest in pursuing an environmental career path, come visit us,” Orozco-Lopez said. “You’ll find we’re excited to show you what we’re working on in crop science, packaging, hydrology and more. Follow that feeling. That’s what I did, and I’ve very happy I’ve done that.”

To schedule a visit or learn more about the UF/IFAS agricultural and biological engineering department, contact the office at this link. To learn more about the criteria used to calculate rankings, visit the U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools website. For a full list of all 28 graduate programs at UF ranked among the nation’s top 30, visit the UF website.

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The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. The college has received more total (national and regional combined) USDA teaching awards than any other institution. Visit the CALS website at cals.ufl.edu, and follow CALS on social media platforms at @ufcals.

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