Jun 13, 2023
New Purdue ag dean is water quality expert

Purdue has promoted one of its agriculture research deans who possesses expertise in water quality and pesticide spray drift to head its ag department.

Bernie Engel has been named the Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture. The appointment is scheduled to become effective July 15.

Bernie Engel

For the past four years, Engel was most recently Purdue’s senior associate dean of agricultural research and graduate education in the College of Agriculture.

Engel is a leading global expert in the development and application of water quality models and environmental decision support systems. The models address agricultural, rural, urban and mixed land-use watersheds and a range of constituents including nutrients, pesticides and soil erosion, according to a news release.

Engel led the development of the web GIS technology that forms the basis of a national registry to protect crops from pesticide spray drift. FieldWatch, a nonprofit launched in 2010, currently operates in 24 states and one province. Engel serves on the FieldWatch board of directors. The technology is credited with greatly reducing unintended drift damage to sensitive crops, according to the release.

“Professor Engel is exactly the right leader to take our strong College of Agriculture to even greater heights of research and academic excellence, while also serving our state’s 92 counties better than ever before through Purdue Extension,” Patrick Wolfe, Purdue provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and diversity, said in the release.

Engel has been a Purdue faculty member for 35 years.

“As dean I will be dedicated to fostering excellence and driving impactful initiatives that align with our mission as a leading public research university and land-grant institution,” Engel said in the release. “I will seek to elevate our reputation as a leading global agricultural college, where groundbreaking research, innovation, student education and stakeholder engagement converge to shape the future of agriculture. I am confident we can attain these goals because of the incredible commitment and talent of our faculty, staff and students.”

Prior to serving as senior associate dean in the college, Engel was department head of Agricultural and Biological Engineering from 2005-2019. Under his leadership, ABE undergraduate and graduate programs were repeatedly ranked the country’s No. 1 biological/agricultural engineering program by U.S. News and World Report. During that time, the number of both undergraduate and graduate students in the department doubled and research expenditures more than tripled.

During Engel’s tenure as senior associate dean, the college received more than $85 million in external research funding for two consecutive years. This year, the college rose in the QS World University Rankings to No. 3 in the U.S. and No. 5 in the world, according to the release. Engel also provided leadership in the college’s entrepreneurship and intellectual property commercialization efforts. In the last fiscal year, the College of Agriculture saw a record number of intellectual property disclosures (70), patent applications (87) and license/option agreements (31), according to the release.

After earning his undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Illinois and his PhD in agricultural engineering from Purdue, Engel joined the faculty in 1988.

Engel was honored as the Purdue College of Agriculture’s Outstanding Researcher and Outstanding Graduate Educator, University Scholar and has authored more than 330 peer-reviewed papers. He has received numerous recognitions from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, including Outstanding Young Researcher Award and the Hancor Soil and Water Conservation Engineering Award.

Engel was chosen following an extensive national search. He succeeds Karen Plaut, who earlier this year became Purdue’s executive vice president for research. Agricultural Economics professor Ken Foster has served as interim dean since January.


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