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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering: Graduate Programs


The ABE graduate program is designed to produce professionals that have a thorough understanding of advanced engineering principles. The Department offers the following degrees in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering: Master of Science (MS), Accelerated Master of Science (AMP), and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). The Department is active in research in the following general emphasis areas:

  • Biometry & Biosystems Informatics
  • Controlled Environment Agriculture
  • Food, Bioproducts, & Renewable Energy
  • Water Resources

However, the students find that a graduate program in the ABE department can be designed to fit almost any need in the general field of the application of engineering principles to the solution of agricultural and biological engineering problems. The flexibility of the degree programs allows domestic and international students, in consultation with their advisors, to develop programs specifically suited to their needs. The University of Arizona is a diverse institution, and therefore provides courses in many different areas to support specific and general programs. Some of the specific areas for graduate research may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Irrigation and Water Quality
  • Agricultural Water Resource Engineering
  • Controlled-Environment Plant Systems and Engineering
  • Algae High-Value Products and Biofuels
  • Plant Cell Cultures
  • Bioreactor Design
  • Biosensors
  • Biometry
  • Waste Management and Pollution Control
  • Renewable Energy

For MS students, graduates are expected to acquire increased professional experience over the course of their graduate program, so that they can be prepared for a successful industrial career through their coursework and the development of a research project. Graduates should be capable of applying knowledge of biological, physical, and engineering sciences to formulate problem statements, design experiments, test hypotheses, and solve problems in agricultural and biological areas. ABE PhD graduates should have similar outcomes as the MS graduates, but with an emphasis on a deeper understanding of problem formulation (to be able to recognize and formulate problem statements) and higher mathematical skills. In particular, graduates should be able to independently conduct original research at and beyond the boundaries of current state of the art. Graduates must have a background in a different discipline through selection of a minor area, so that they can be incorporated into interdisciplinary research teams. In addition, PhD graduates should be ready to pursue academic careers.

Expected Learning Outcomes: 
By completion of the graduate programs in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), the graduate students will:  
1. demonstrate broad knowledge of the his/her focus area in ABE,
2. critically analyze published research results in his/her focus area in ABE,
3. conduct original research on a significant ABE problem, and
4. effectively communicate and defend results of research to peers and broader scientific audiences.
Assessment Activities: 
Assessments is conducted throughout the graduate student’s tenure in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE) Department. Common to all graduate programs in the ABE department are the requirements of graduate seminar presentations and the oral and written defense of the research or creative activity. In addition to these common elements, the ABE PhD program requires a student to complete a written and oral comprehensive exam based upon coursework and the student’s focus area. These already existing assessment activities are also used to gather program level assessment data.
The Assessment Rubric shown in Appendix I4 (see attached files below) for Thesis/Report/Dissertation & Defenseis is used to assess outcomes 2, 3, and 4 at the student’s thesis and dissertation defense. The rubric was developed by the graduate committee approved by the faculty. Each faculty committee member completes this rubric after the student’s defense. The faculty chair of the committee submits the scored rubrics to the graduate program coordinator in the department. Once each year, at a late spring or early summer faculty meeting, the summarized data are reviewed by the faculty. Table below shows the graduate program assessment tool that that our faculty discussed after using the rubric for two years. There is a departmental Graduate Seminar Presentation evaluation form that members of the audience use to assess the graduate student’s presentation (see attached Appendix I5 below).
Table. Graduate program assessment tool.
Assessment Activities 

Outcome 1: Knowledge of the focus area

Outcome 2: Critical Analysis of Research in the Focus Area 

Outcome 3: Conduct Original Research  Outcome 4: Communicate and/or Defend Research 
Writted comprehensice exam X      
Oral comprehensive exam X X    
Written dissertation and oral defense   X X  
Exit survey (see Appendix I6) X X X  
Graduate seminar presentation X X   X


Assessment Findings: 

Please see the attached file "Assessment Findings" below which provides findings based on graduate student technical seminar presentation evaluations. Our students in general perform well with their technical presentations based on their research projects.

Change in Response to Findings: 

Based on the graduate student seminar presentations and evaluations, our students do an excellent job on making technical presentation, therefore there were no changes made based on the findings.

As part of the 2009-2016 self-study, we determined that there is a need to improve for assessing our graduate students expected learning outcomes in the graduate program. Thus, we will develop an online exit survey for our graduate students. The results will be tabulated by our Academic Program Coordinator.

Updated date: Fri, 03/25/2016 - 12:33