In the Field: Alumni who are making a difference in Biological Systems Engineering
Graham Adsit BS’04 Biological Systems Engineering
Graham Adsit moved from engineering into medicine, earning his M.D. at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He now focuses his attention on using the most recent medical tools and therapies available to treat his patients. As a Fellow in cardiovascular medicine at UW Hospital and Clinics and a graduate student in cell and regenerative biology, Adsit says he has found a career that allows him to positively influence people’s lives with unparalleled intimacy. “I am driven by the desire to heal and to help patients feel well, and am rewarded when there are successful medical interventions,” he says. But his impact on the world around him doesn’t stop at the hospital. Utilizing his background in agriculture—he is a partner in his family’s grain operation, Long Winter Farm—he founded World Farmer, a grassroots movement that allows farmers to donate grain commodities directly to food relief programs. In addition, Adsit is an officer in the Air National Guard, serving as a flight surgeon.
Paul Boor BS’85, MS’88 Agricultural Engineering
Paul Boor is the Vice President for Engineering Services and Product Development at Lester Building Systems, a firm that designs and manufactures custom agricultural and commercial structures. In that role, he provides oversight for the design and product development process at Lester, from the design engineer’s desk to final plans. “All of our products are unique, built-to-order structures,” he explains. “We always try to understand how new products will fit into the big picture as they are developed.” He says his CALS education helped him to think more broadly about a lot of topics. “Coming from a dairy farm in rural Wisconsin and moving to Madison was an eye-opening experience,” he says. “My education opened doors that otherwise would have been closed.”
Andy Diercks BS’93 Agricultural Engineering
Andy Diercks has a passion for potatoes. A fourth-generation potato grower, Diercks operates Coloma Farms, Inc. with his father Steve. Together they grow 2,700 acres of potatoes and grain. On the farm, he uses his engineering acumen to manage the farm’s mechanical and technological challenges. “My passion is problem solving that attempts to make everybody else’s job easier or more efficient,” he says. Diercks also is active in industry leadership. He serves as a director on the United States Potato Board and is a past president of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association. As a member of that organization he is working with CALS faculty and other partners on the Central Sands Water Initiative, a project that seeks to shed light on causes and solutions for water shortages in that area. He also chairs the citizen board for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
Brian and Jill Huenink BS’00, MS’03 Agricultural Engineering; BS’03 Agricultural Engineering
Brian and Jill Huenink have built their engineering careers at John Deere, where Brian is a senior engineer charged with meeting new EPA emissions requirements for Deere’s 7R tractor. Jill’s resume includes work on drivetrain and chassis components of John Deere’s popular 7000 and 8000 series tractors. As a couple they recently received the 2012 Young Engineer Award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers in recognition of their outstanding contributions to their profession. Currently Jill is taking a long-term leave from John Deere to raise their children, but she’s still working outside the home; she and Brian are partners in Brian’s family dairy and certified seed operation near Cedar Grove. “CALS laid the foundation for my career as an engineer by giving me the tools, contacts and experience necessary to step right in and make a difference,” Brian says. “I can’t say enough about the positive effect the faculty had on my lifelong commitment to agriculture.”
Alan Koepke BS’63 Agricultural Engineering
Alan Koepke has never been a practicing engineer, but that hasn’t prevented him from utilizing the engineering skills he developed at CALS. In fact, as a partner in Koepke Farms, Inc. near Oconomowoc, Koepke says that using his engineering skills to design buildings, repair farm machinery and implement soil drainage systems has been his favorite part of farming. The 320-cow dairy also boasts an impressive record of conservation, winning the Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award last year in part for their efforts to reduce soil erosion through no-tillage cropping systems. “Conservation has always been used on our farm,” Koepke says. “I took a soils class taught by professor Art Peterson that really inspired me in soil conservation.” Along the way, Koepke also has made an impact on the dairy industry. He helped found the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin and has served as a past president of the Wisconsin Holstein Association. Alan, along with his brothers, Jim and David, and a nephew, John, were named World Dairy Expo Dairymen of the Year in 2011.
Karen Mandl BS’03 Biological Systems Engineering, MS’05 Food Science
Karen Mandl loves the idea of working on food products because they are such an integral part of our everyday lives. “When I say, ‘I work on Cheerios,’ that’s something everyone can relate to,” she says. As a product developer at global food giant General Mills, she is currently working to make popular breakfast cereals healthier by, for example, increasing fiber and whole grain content. “We always try to make the product taste the same as it did before those changes so that it will still be the product people love,” she explains. Mandl joined General Mills’ strategic research group in 2005 after four summers as an intern with the company. In her spare time, Mandl enjoys participating in competitive open-water swim races.
Scott Mueller BS’87 Agricultural Engineering
Scott Mueller wanted to combine his passion for agriculture with his talent in math and science. When it came time to pick a career, he found agricultural engineering and never looked back. “Coming from a small family farm, I enjoy assisting in conservation engineering work being applied to the land in Wisconsin,” he says. For a time he worked as an area engineer in southwest Wisconsin, helping landowners improve their conservation practices. Today he is the assistant state conservation engineer for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he provides oversight and leadership for engineers across Wisconsin. “I know this conservation work makes a positive impact on the landscape of our state,” he says. Mueller is a registered professional engineer (PE). As a 26-year member of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) he currently serves as a technical committee member, committee secretary and writer for the Agricultural Engineering professional engineer exam.
Greg Williams BS’91 Construction Administration, MS’93, PhD’99 Agricultural Engineering
Greg Williams’ family has a 100-year history of involvement in two industries: construction and agriculture. So becoming an agricultural engineer was a natural choice for Williams, the president and founder of Facility Engineering Services, PA. The Arkansas-based company focuses on designing industrial processing facilities for the food, biofuel and agricultural industries. A practicing engineer, Williams has designed many facilities including feed mills, grain elevators, malting plants, meat and poultry plants, and other food and agricultural processing facilities. He takes pride in having founded his own business. “Being a business owner is much like running a dairy farm,” he says. “It’s a seven-day-a-week job.” He remains in close contact with the Biological Systems Engineering department and serves on American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers committees.This article was posted in In the Field, Summer 2012, Working Life and tagged agricultural engineering, Alan Koepke, Alumni, Andy Diercks, biological systems engineering, Brian Huenink, Graham Adsit, Greg Williams, Grow Summer 2012, In the Field, Jill Huenink, Karen Mandl, Paul Boor, Scott Mueller, Taylor Fritsch, Working Life.