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100-Year Celebration

Agricultural and Biological Engineering

100-Year Celebration

Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Faculty Stories

Tell your story! Submit your story to be added to the ABE Centennial Faculty stories webpage. Faculty Stories

C. Direlle Baird - 1962, B.S.; 1967, M.S.; 1973, Ph.D.

Agricultural Engineering, B.S. & M.S.
Mechanical Engineering, Ph.D.

What is your fondest memory of ABE?

When our Student Club had the First Place Exhibit at the Engineering Fair for the College of Engineering with my classmates.

Who was your favorite faculty member? Why?

Professor Rush Choate because he convinced me to become an Ag Eng and was an excellent advisor and teacher. His example played a major role in me becoming a teacher and student advisor in Ag Eng.

What did you do after graduating?

I served two years on active duty in the US Army and 37 years total including my Army Reserve time and retired as a Colonel. The picture below shows me on one of my assignments as the 2nd Army Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer for Florida after Hurricane Andrew (see picture below). I also broke the rules and became a faculty member in Ag Eng after receiving all my degrees from UF and retired after 35 years. After retirement I did some consulting and served several tours of duty in FL, TX, NY and NJ as a Senior Mechanical Engineer for Fluor Corporation, a FEMA contracting company. One of my projects was verifying the damage claims and providing estimated repair costs ($150 million) for the Freedom Tower in New York City caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Why do you think it's important that ABE is reaching this 100-year milestone?

ABE has prepared many students for careers in areas that have made the world a better place to live including feeding the world, protecting our natural resources and using engineering and biological technology to develop sustainable solutions to problems facing a broad range of industries.  ABE research has made major contributions to our society through technology development including artificial intelligence, remote sensing, systems modeling, automation an more recently various circular technologies. The ABE extension engineering program is unique since it is the only field of engineer that provides opportunities for direct contact with the real world.

Kenneth Jay Boote - Adjunct Professor at ABE Since 2009

Who helped you the most when you first started at UF in the department, and what did they do?

Jim Jones.  When Jim arrived in 1977, he encouraged me to collaborate with him on crop modeling activities with soybean.  I had been invited by Dr. Ernest Smerdon in 1976 to participate in Regional S-107 project on Soybean Production and Management Simulation Models.  We started developing our own SOYGRO model with Gail Wilkerson, released in 1983.  I collaborated with Jim starting in 1983 on the IBSNAT project which led to the DSSAT software.  Jim and Wayne Mishoe helped develop the soil-plant-atmosphere research chambers for studying crop response to elevated CO2 and temperature.  Hartwell Allen, USDA scientist subsequently took leadership on using SPAR chambers to study climate change effects on crops, and that led me into major contributions in that field.

Why is your research important, and how do you think it will impact our world?

The DSSAT crop modeling software is now well developed and includes models for nearly 40 different crops.  It is the most used crop modeling software in the world and is widely used, having been downloaded more than 10,000 times for the last release.  It is having major use and impact for evaluating crop management, genetic improvement, and global climate change effects.  I need to say this has been a multi-collaborative effort started by Jim Jones but is presently being led by Dr. Gerrit Hoogenboom since Jim retired.  

What is your advice to future students looking at ABE as their career path?

There is a wide range of possibilities beyond your degree.  Think broadly and be interdisciplinary as you do not know what future jobs or needs will be there.  Technology, computers, internet, web services will clearly be part of the future. 

Richard Fluck - Faculty at ABE From 1965 - 2000

Who helped you the most when you first started at UF in the department, and what did they do?

Prof. Rush Choate, who encouraged me to get my PE license.  He (and his wife, Barbara) were sources of quiet wisdom.

Why is your research important, and how do you think it will impact our world?

Understanding all aspects of energy use in agriculture enables better decisions in relation to agricultural systems.

What are you most proud of when you think about your career in ABE? Why?

That I was able to make contributions in both research and teaching.
That I served as ABE's first graduate coordinator and later as undergraduate coordinator for the engineering program.
That I was instrumental in obtaining authorization to offer and initiate the department’s PhD program.

What is your advice to future students looking at ABE as their career path?

Have an open mind and follow your passions.

Wendell Porter - Senior Lecturer Emeritus


Who was your favorite faculty member? Why?

Ray Bucklin.  He guided me through my PhD work as a non-traditional student.  He did this with a great sense of humor and humanity.

What was your hardest class? Why?

ABE6986 Applied Mathematics in Agriculture and Life Sciences.  This was taught by Allen Overman and covered all levels of math including things like Bessel Functions.  Some of this stuff I had not seen in 15-20 years!  Great class, though.

Why do you think it's important that ABE is reaching this 100-year milestone?

Provides a sense of history.  What did it take for those past faculty members to get us to where we are now?  That gives an extra incentive for current faculty no to let a sense of history down. 

How do you think ABE will impact the next 100 years?

The biggest thing is to keep alive that branch of engineering that deals with the living world.  We are not mechanical or civil engineering "lite".  Focusing on the living world brings a whole different level to the art and science of engineering.

Arthur Teixeira - Professor Emeritus

Who helped you the most when you first started at the department, and what did they do?

Gerry Issacs. He was chair of the department and hired me directly as associate professor taking my 12 years' experience working in industry in Liew of starting out as Assistant Professor. He took me under his wing and "showed me the ropes" with much advice and counsel for which I was forever grateful.

What excites you the most about your research right now?

Memories of how well recognized I was internationally for my research in Food Engineering.  I accepted numerous invitations to speak at many international conferences that gave me the opportunity to experience much travel and adventure around the world, as well as recognition at home by being named UF Senior International Scholar of the Year in 2013.

Why is your research important, and how do you think it will impact our world?

Results from my field of research has brought me international recognition as an expert in computer simulation, optimization, and control of thermal food processing operations. Much of his work is now becoming central to modern process design and control systems in today’s food canning industry. These systems achieve increased safety assurance of sterilized canned foods while retaining optimum quality at lower cost by eliminating the need to destroy under-processed product, as well as reduce cost of processing operations by eliminating production line shutdowns.

What is your best memory of ABE?

I hold many fond memories of events and happenings during my tenure as a faculty member in the ABE Department. Among these is when I was given the privilege to be keynote speaker at the recognition celebration of Dr. Direlle Baird's retirement from serving as chairman of the ABE Department during construction of the new Rogers Hall building from 1999 - 2004.