December 2018 ABeNotes

2018 December ABE Gives Back!

At our final 2018 drive on Monday, November 12, we were able to collect 21 units of blood and blood products (translate to 63 potential lives saved)! That brings our final 2018 results to 103 units (translate to 309 lives)! Congratulations - we beat our 2017 total of 91 with a nice margin to spare. We already have the dates for the 2019 drives:

  • Tuesday, January 15
  • Wednesday, March 27
  • Thursday, May 30
  • Thursday, August 22
  • Tuesday, November 5

We had 71 different donors in 2018. A special thanks to those who donated multiple times: Cody Crocker, Paige Ebner, Nate Engelberth, Jon Frigo, Yvonne Hardebeck, Dinah McClure, Teasha McKinley, Ryan Musselman, Dawn Parks, Julie Pluimer, Tom Pluimer, Ben Reinhart, Taylor Senegal, Beth Siple, Pat Smoker, Abby Snodgrass, Erin Sorlien, Mark Sullivan, Seth Tolley, and Nikki Zimmerman. Nikki, Seth, Beth, Ben, and Ryan were our over-achievers with 3 donations each. Thank you for being DifferenceMakers!

2018 December AgrAbility News

The primary objective of Indiana AgrAbility is to provide services to farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers and their families with disabilities.  November has been spent providing direct services thru on-farm visits to nine farmers with disabilities and their families.  The injuries range from foot amputations, leg amputations, double knee replacements and arthritis, spinal muscular atrophy, high level spinal cord injuries, and lower level spinal cord injuries.  Each with a different need and farming operation.  Recommendations ranged from tractor and truck lifts, utility vehicles with full cabs with heater and air conditioners, hand controls for tractors and trucks, lifts into their trucks, drive-thru gates, standing tracked power wheelchairs, drones, and assistance evaluating their farming operation for changes in enterprises or methods.  Our services include assistance in finding funding to acquire the products and modifications for them to continue in the work they love.

2018 December Alumni News

Jen (Kahn) Rich (2015 PhD) and Dave Rich welcomed home their first child, Hazel Faye Rich. Hazel was born November 30 at 5:34 am. The vital statistics: 7 lb. 21.5" long. Mom and Baby (and Dad and doggos) are fine and are glad to be home. Congratulations!

Somali Chaterji joins ABE as Assistant Professor

I am excited to be surrounded by diverse domains straddling agriculture and biological engineering. I have always been a very applied and goal-driven person and I love solving new and mind-bending problems. I blended my engineering insights with my love for biological “machines” and here I am, an applied data scientist using learning machines from the machine learning (ML) tool chest and adapting them to understand the hidden language of living cells. While designing these algorithms to hack the code of living cells, with a vision to promote health and vitality, I realized predictive algorithms were not enough. I needed to engineer the frameworks and pipelines that result in speedier evolution of algorithms with the evolving varieties of datasets, surging data volumes, and often encountered curse of dimensionality in these datasets (small “n”, large “p”, i.e., fewer samples and more features).

I believe the time is nigh to leverage these big datasets to take actionable insights. This is because not only is there lots of data, but the computing machines and the sophisticated algorithms enable us to churn these datasets to gain actionable insights. Often, the insights are not just accurate predictions, but also interpretability. What are the features that resulted in the higher accuracy? What are the feature dependencies? Which features can be pruned, thus gaining processing speed but without losing accuracy? As an engineer who has worked both on and off the bench, I believe the reduction of the feature space, in a disciplined manner, enables focused wet-lab experiments and decreases the computational overhead of our data-processing pipelines. Thus, with a vision toward precision medicine and digital agriculture innovations, applying leading-edge ML tools, I look to answer important scientific questions and also build usable open-source software to democratize these solutions.

Some of the scientific questions I am answering with my current work are:

  1. Which parts of the non-coding genome are regulatory and how are these regulatory parts different in cancer cells and in “stem” cells? Stem cells give rise to different tissue types in the body.
  2. Can we reverse engineer the gene regulatory networks that have gone awry in disease?
  3. Can we fine tune our software pipelines for the changing workloads as are seen in digital agriculture and metagenomics pipelines for example?

For more about me and our “Cells and Machines Innovatory” group, please check back often at:

2018 December Faculty News

We are sad to say "So long" to Professor Indrajeet Chaubey. He has been named the new Dean of the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources at the University of Connecticut.

As Dean Karen Plaut put it, "Indrajeet has been a member of the Purdue faculty since 2007, serving in the Colleges of Agriculture, Engineering and Science.  As a faculty member in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, he has conducted a dynamic research program in water modeling and developing watershed management strategies to improve water quality. From 2012 -2017,  Dr. Chaubey served as Head of the  Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences in the College of Science. He then joined the College of Agriculture as Associate Dean and Director of International Programs in 2017.  In his role as Associate Dean and Director, he has engaged many faculty in international research and Extension activities and has helped us develop dynamic teams to address global challenges. Please join me in wishing Indrajeet the very best at the University of Connecticut!"

Professor and Department Head Bernie Engel presented a seminar Monday morning, December 10, as a candidate for Associate Dean and Director of Agricultural Research and Graduate Education for the College of Agriculture. His excellent presentation drew a full house, and he represented us well!

2018 December Maha Fluid Power Laboratory News

Maha Attends the 2018 Bosch Rexroth MOBILE TECHDAYS

From October 9th to the 11th, the engineering giant Bosch Rexroth held its 2018 MOBILE TECHDAYS event in Greenville, South Carolina, shining a spotlight on the latest trends in fluid power technology. The only academic speaker at the event was Dr. Andrea Vacca of the Maha Fluid Power Research Center, who received the great honor of being invited to give a talk on the next generation of fluid power technology; over 300 attendees opened their ears to his message on the future direction of fluid power research, demonstrating that the work of the Maha Fluid Power Research Center continues to be of keen interest to the hydraulics industry.

Maha Graduates

On November 27th, Lizhi Shang (left) and Xinran Zhao (right) defended their PhD theses on the modeling and design of hydraulic pumps. Shang’s work focuses on the highly efficient axial piston machine of swash plate design, found in applications ranging from agriculture to aerospace; his contributions include a more accurate thermal model for the crucial piston-cylinder lubricating interface, and a novel guide on how to scale this type of unit (increase or decrease the size of a given pump) in a way that keeps the efficiency drop associated with scaling to a minimum. Zhao’s work focuses on the highly robust and compact external gear machine, specifically with regards to lowering flow pulsation and increasing the efficiency of these units. In order to enable the design of more optimal machines, Zhao has developed a simulation model capable of generating various gear profiles, and then capturing the behavior of the external gear machine with those profiles through the use of sub-models that compute the kinematics of the hydraulic fluid moving through the machine, the forces acting on the gears and the resulting micro-motion, and the significant physical phenomena pertinent to the machine’s lubricating interfaces.

Joining the wave of 2018 graduates, on November 29th, Addison Alexander defended his PhD thesis, entitled “An Electro-Hydraulic Traction Control System for Heavy Duty Off-Road Vehicles: Formulation and Implementation.” His research is aimed at improving traction control for off-road vehicles its import arises from the potential fuel reductions and increased ease of operation associated with higher traction. Dr. Alexander’s novel contributions include the design of a wheel loader prototype with implemented traction control, as well as the development of a corresponding simulation model. Through his research, Dr. Alexander was able to achieve a 16% fuel reduction for an existing wheel loader.

Congratulations to all three graduates on both their new degrees and successful innovations!

2018 December New Scholars on the Block

This is a feature to introduce our visiting scholars - please take a minute and check out what they are (or will be) up to! The images on the left are not large enough to read, but if you click on them, the larger PDF should load - please let Carol know if you run into difficulties (

Name: Nida Kanwal

Purdue email:

Permanent email:


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