2022 Outstanding ABE Alumni
Left to right: Cory Spaetti, Bob Malcomb, Michael Holland, Zita Holland, Kyler Laird
Michael A. Holland, MS '07, PhD '12
Michael grew up in Noblesville, Indiana on a small farm. Michael holds 3 degrees from Purdue University: BSME (2005), MSE (2007), PhD (2012). Even as an undergrad with a major outside of ABE, Michael joined the ABE community while taking technical electives, building ¼-scale tractors, and winterizing lawn mowers. Connections made at ABE during that time led to lifelong friends, internship opportunities, and an interest in graduate studies at ABE.
With advisor Dr. Gary Krutz, Michael investigated tire-sensing technology and designed simple electronic circuitry that could be used to detect changes in the tire condition. Michael interned in the utility tractor hydraulics group at the John Deere Product Engineering Center in Waterloo, Iowa, during grad school. Upon completion of his Master of Science in Engineering in 2007, Michael began working at John Deere full-time with rotations in component test and operator station groups.
In late 2008, Michael was made aware of a PhD project opportunity at Purdue University in digital hydraulics and took a leave of absence from John Deere. Michael developed and built a bidirectional digital hydraulic pump/motor under advisor Dr. John Lumkes and through the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power. With a young child at home, the time at Purdue was extra special, seeing the university through the eyes of a child in his formative years.
Upon completion of his doctorate, Michael returned to the John Deere Product Engineering Center to the tractor hydraulics group. Michael has held positions from analysis to design engineering and supervision. Project highlights include selective control valve updates; development of a closed center, pressure and flow compensated utility tractor hydraulic circuit; and design and implementation of steering, braking, and trailer braking systems for domestic, European, and worldwide markets. Michael is currently a staff engineer, supporting the advancement of hydraulic technology and architecture for future product programs. Through John Deere, Michael has had the opportunity to work with engineers and customers from around the world, including on-farm experiences with customers in the United States, Europe, and Scandinavia.
Outside of work, Michael enjoys raising three boys. With his wife Zita and parents, Michael raises corn, soybeans, and hay on a small Iowa farm. The farm provides a great opportunity to mix older tractors and newer technology. Michael supports the ASABE International ¼-Scale Tractor Student Design Competition each year as a volunteer and as an officer in the competition committee. Of course, Michael continues to cheer on Purdue basketball, football, and volleyball.
Zita C. Holland, MS '10
Zita Crayner Holland earned her bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering (2005) before starting as a Product Engineer at John Deere Power Systems in Waterloo, IA. She took a leave of absence to return to the Purdue campus to complete her Master of Science in Engineering at Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Her thesis under Dr. Gary Krutz investigated applications of electro-active polymer actuators.
She returned to John Deere, where she redesigned the 13.5L crankshaft before becoming a tribology analyst. Zita is currently a staff engineer working in product safety and compliance for tractors at the John Deere Waterloo Works, supporting the newest models of the 7R, 8R, and 9R tractor platforms. She works with internal design teams, external regulations, and international standards bodies to maintain the highest levels of compliance and market access for John Deere tractor products. Zita has been with John Deere for over 16 years. During her time at Purdue, she interned with Alcoa at the Lafayette, Indiana, location.
A firm believer in continuing education, Zita is also working on a degree in German Studies at Oregon State University. She loves hockey, crocheting, and rucking, and she has recently purchased an older home to hone her renovation skills. She is a life-long fan of Purdue.
Zita works full-time and is raising 3 boys with her husband, Michael, who is also being honored this year as an outstanding alumnus. The Holland family lives and farms in Iowa.
Kyler B. Laird, MS '04
Kyler Laird is an agricultural robotics expert with a passion for developing innovative solutions and sharing knowledge through presenting and teaching. He serves as a Farmer and Manager at Lairdscape LLC based in Rensselaer, Indiana.
Robert Lynn 'Bob' Malcomb, BS '78
Bob Malcomb, of Southeastern Indiana, is well-known for designing and building pole barn hospitals, churches, and orphanages. While a student at Purdue, he worked for the ABE (then Ag Engineering) Department.
During Bob’s matriculation, the department taught a post-frame building design course. The process requires 1/3 less labor and 1/3 less material than traditional buildings. The university asked Bob to go to Ukraine to teach a pole-barn design course for low-cost churches. Each building is outfitted with a soup kitchen as well as space for collecting and distributing coats and medications. To date, Bob has overseen the building of 29 churches in several countries.
Financing these trips was accomplished by building churches and “barndominiums” here in Indiana.
Bob has been a faithful supporter of our students and our programs, returning to campus annually to share with our seminar classes and inspire the next group.
Bob has designed hospitals in Haiti, Mexico, Mauritania, Central Africa, and Asia.
Corwin 'Cory' Spaetti, BS '02
Cory has over 20 years of engineering and product management experience since graduating from the ABE program in May of 2002. Following graduation, Cory returned to farming, but shortly after transitioned to a product engineering role at Kubota Tractor Corporation. At KTC Cory expanded the application of their compact and utility tractors through the development of new attachments.
Three years later, in 2006, he joined CNH Industrial as a design engineer and served the Compact and Cash-Crop High Horsepower Tractor platforms. He was the architect for systems that integrate electrical, hydraulic, drivetrain, and cabs for these tractors. In 2011, Cory migrated from engineering to purchasing within CNH Industrial. Cory was responsible for product development purchasing activities on the Case IH Steiger / New Holland T9 tractor platform. Specifically, Cory orchestrated strategic sourcing of all new components during the development of Case IH’s RowTrac Steiger tractor. Then in 2013, Cory moved over to CNH Industrial’s Precision Solution & Telematics group, as the Telematics and Connectivity Platform Manager where he initiated and managed the development of Case IH’s AFS Connect telematics product.
In 2017, Cory joined The Climate Corporation as the Product Manager for FieldView Drive Machine Compatibility. Cory was the project manager for the expansion of the Drive’s compatibility to legacy and new precision agriculture equipment.
Since the fall of 2019, Cory has been at Sabanto and is a leader in autonomous agriculture equipment development.
Cory strongly believes that his education and experiences at Purdue gave him a strong foundation to succeed within the agriculture equipment and technology space.
Cory was raised on a 1200 acre grain farm in Southern Indiana and earned a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Engineering at Purdue University in 2002. He is a two-time Ironman Triathlon finisher, an Eagle Scout, and a 10-year 4-H club member.
2021 Outstanding ABE Alumni
With the ongoing restrictions and the we have again made the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 Alumni Awards. The Fall semester is beginning to look more "normal" and we anticipate celebrating our 100th anniversary in September. Our hope is that the spring 2022 awards will be in-person.
2020 Outstanding ABE Alumni
With the social-distancing requirements currently in place, we had to make the hard decision to cancel this year's Alumni Awards, originally slated for April 23, 2020. We look forward to next year, when we can celebrate not only our Outstanding ABE Alumni and our seniors, but the 100th anniversary of the conferring of the first Agricultural & Biological Engineering degree (then called Agricultural Engineering). Please make your plans to join us then!
2019 Outstanding ABE Alumni
Kathryn "Kitt" Farrell-Poe, MS '84, PhD '90 CE
Kathryn L. “Kitt” Farrell-Poe is a Department Head, Extension Specialist, and Professor in the Biosystems Engineering Department and an Extension Water Quality Specialist in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences and the College of Engineering at the University of Arizona. A native Ohioan, she was the first woman to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Agricultural Engineering at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1979, where she emphasized water quality and quantity. She immediately put her engineering skills to the test working for a USDA rural electrification program in Nebraska looking at how and when farmers used electricity.
Over several ASAE meetings, Purdue Professor John C. Nye recruited her to pursue a master’s degree in Agricultural Engineering at Purdue with a focus on containment of pesticide contaminated rinse water. She also worked as a teaching assistant for Professor Bruce McKenzie’s Farmstead Planning class. When he requested that she get the previous class notes from another graduate instructor, Stephen Poe, little did she know that she would marry him four years later. After graduating with her master’s and swearing off any more schooling, she worked for the Farm Clinic in West Lafayette doing soil analysis for a year. Graduate school called to her again, but she felt that Agricultural Engineering departments were too small to hire two Agricultural Engineering professionals at the same time, so she started a Ph.D. program in Civil (Environmental) Engineering also at Purdue University, and concentrated on industrial wastewater treatment.
During her doctorate graduate program, Kitt Farrell-Poe got married, had her first child, and moved to Utah State University, taking on a 50% Water Quality Extension position all while she was finishing her PhD. Once she graduated, she joined the Agricultural Systems Technology & Education department as first woman faculty member. It was there that she started to focus more of her time with the Cooperative Extension service becoming a statewide water quality specialist known as Water Woman often dressed in tights and wearing a cape to conduct school presentations.
Dr. Farrell-Poe joined the Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering Department as their first female faculty member and has been with the University of Arizona for 20 years. She became the department’s first female department head in 2014. Her Extension program focus has been onsite wastewater treatment education for practitioners. While teaching and conducting Extension programs as the State Extension Water Quality Coordinator, she was also the coordinator of the USDA Region 9 Water Quality Program. She is a member of the Consortium of Institutes for Decentralized Wastewater Treatment, and a writer and reviewer of CIDWT curriculum materials, as well as a member of ASABE.
Dr. Farrell-Poe has personally participated in almost $7 million in grants, and now directs 18 faculty members, 5 staff, 3 different research facilities, and has an annual departmental budget in excess of $2.5 million.
Paul S. Miller PhD '03Paul S. Miller, PhD, is now the Head of Science and Analytics at Nutrien Ag Solution’s Champaign, IL Campus of Nutrien Digital, which was Agrible, Inc’s headquarters prior to Agrible’s acquisition by Nutrien Ag Solutions. Paul was a co-founder and served as the Chief Science Officer and Head of Product Development since the inception of Agrible, Inc from 2012 – 2018, a software development company focused on predictive analytics and sustainability analytics in agriculture.
Paul went to college and found his way into Agricultural Engineering due to his love of the environment and interests in sustainability, ecosystem health, and food security. He completed his BS and MS at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign under the critical mentorship of J. Kent Mitchell, PhD. He worked on large instrumentation projects and quickly led a team of undergraduate research engineers to help with the LVR watershed data collection effort. That field-level research was critical to understanding data, its difficulty of collection, data science and analytics, and its quality control requirementsm something that is foundational to work at both Agrible and Nutrien.
After completing that early academic work, Paul decided to pursue a PhD in Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University, co-mentored by Rabi Mohtar, PhD, and Bernard Engel, PhD. Purdue’s focus at that time on the computational aspects of Agricultural Engineering including spatial processing and numerical and computational engineering were foundational to the development and conceptualization of key systems thinking for spatial data and geospatially-linked computational agronomics both at the micro- and macro-scales. He worked on data science-focused work related to combinatorial-based analytics of water quality sampling programs for mass-flux calculations from field and watershed studies. This focus led to pushing systems and hardware to being able to build massively parallel data science workflows – the ideation basis for simulation workflows at Agrible, Inc.
After Purdue, Paul worked as a post-doctoral researcher at University of Wisconsin at Madison mentored by KG Karthikeyan and consultant on massive computational agronomics-based simulation systems with linked data science and machine learning-based analytics workflows. The focus of this work was to always answer why certain things were happening and how humans affect the environment. A significant achievement was modeling millions of agricultural fields across the US to understand environmental fate and transport of agricultural chemicals and developing algorithms that reflect real-world agricultural practices and complex geospatial analyses. These algorithms led to ideation for grower-centric predictive analytics. “Why couldn’t growers use this science to know more and be more efficient with their operations?”, was the question that led to an amazing business.
Champaign has a very vibrant startup and entrepreneurial community and Paul was introduced to the world of startups there. After a few business-startup informational events, he thought, “I could do that!” After working through venture capital, business plans, series funding, and the pragmatic world of technology startups, he pursued the creation of Agrible, Inc. - a predictive analytics-based business in agriculture creating science-based products for growers to use every day in their business.
The science and technology stack created at Agrible was the first of its kind and attracted over 20,000 grower-users, served millions of data requests through web, mobile, and email application, delivered critical agronomic information checked daily across the industry, and launched predictive analytics in agriculture to growers across the world. Built entirely internally in Champaign, IL with an incredible science and technology team, the analytics products delivered concentrated on Agronomics, Logistics, Weather, and intelligent systems-based Record Keeping. Agrible became the global leader in documented, sustainably-sourced acres and provided sustainability metrics to growers and food and beverage companies by creating digital sustainability campaigns supported by the Agrible ecosystem in the US and in around 20 countries worldwide.
A number of the large companies in agriculture were watching what Agrible was doing and seeing the widespread adoption of its technology across different players in the industry. Wanting to deliver science-based predictive analytics to its customers with it’s new Digital organization, Nutrien Ag Solutions, the world’s largest agricultural retailer took note and decided to acquire Agrible, Inc. in one of the top 10 ag tech business deals as of 2018. As a member of both the Board of Directors and the Agrible M&A committee, Paul presented the company’s vision and technical acumen to Nutrien Ag Solutions and worked on the deal for almost half a year – an incredible business experience. Paul became the Head of Science and Analytics at Nutrien Ag Solutions and is currently engaged in transitioning the Agrible team through the acquisition and integration of the Agrible systems alongside building new products for Nutrien Ag Solution’s digital platform. He will be incredibly proud when over 1 in 5 of every grower in the US and Canada begin using the predictive analytics products that Agrible’s team built to grow food sustainably and profitably at the same time.
Paul S. Miller is married to Sang S Lee and they live in Champaign, Illinois, with their two crazy cats, musical instruments, and mid-century modern furniture. Who knows what the future holds, too?
Amy Penner BS '07, MS '08
Amy grew up in Wabash, Indiana on a family farm and wanted to study at Purdue from a young age. She graduated with degrees in Biological and Food Process Engineering BS (2007) and MS (2008) under Dr. Martin Okos. In her Master's work, she furthered the NASA's Mars Mission Food program and additional work on developing a project-based spiral learning curriculum. As an undergraduate, she was active in the Society of Women Engineers, Mortar Board, Purdue Christian Campus House and Iron Key.
Since her time at Purdue, the last 11 years have been filled with learning and growth as she has delivered successful projects and programs across 4 countries through 3 functions and 7 roles. Within her teams, she has been named on 6 patents, launched multiple new products and portfolios, delivered multi-million dollar capex and productivity programs alongside completing her MBA and Six Sigma black belt.
Amy started her journey at Kraft Foods in R&D in Chicago and later moved to Oxford, UK, to launched new technology for an instant coffee product. After a company re-structure, she stayed with the newly formed Mondelez International to drive global process development of chewing gum in New Jersey. Then, an opportunity came up to move back to the UK to lead the Continuous Improvement team for an Instant Coffee Manufacturing plant. Following another company re-structure, the coffee business was spun out of Mondelez to create the world's largest pure coffee company, Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE) in 2015. With this change, she moved back to R&D to lead Technology Applications team for Instant Coffee across 6 plants for JDE. During this time, she completed her MBA at Oxford Brookes University in Oxford with a specialization in Improving success in M&A activity for R&D functions. Following an acquisition in 2017, she spent the next 2 years in Singapore, Singapore as Head of R&D Asia, leading the team of 37 across the region and delivering the R&D integration and growth agendas.
In December 2018, Amy moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands, where she is currently leading Global Procurement team for Raw Materials at JDE, where she manages a multi-million dollar annual portfolio spend. Amy strongly believes that her education and experiences at Purdue gave her a strong foundation to succeed within the dynamic global food industry.
In her free time, Amy loves to cook and she tries to integrate the flavors and textures of the amazing food from all the places she's lived. She enjoys traveling and embracing new cultures. Yet, she always enjoys coming back to Indiana to spend time with family, friends, and cheer on the Boilermakers.
Stephen "Steve" E. Poe PhD '87
Dr. Stephen E. Poe is a Professor and Extension Specialist in Biosystems Engineering and Agricultural Education at the University of Arizona. While in high school, Steve started sniffing out of a future career in mechanized agriculture while operating a manure scoop shovel at the family hog farm in Roan, Indiana. After starting college at Ball State University, he moved back to California with his family and continued his education receiving an AA in agriculture and diesel mechanics. Deciding to move back to Indiana, Steve attempted to major in Agricultural Mechanization with a focus on Agricultural Education, but his advisor (Professor Ray Lien) wouldn’t go along with the idea, so Steve ended up getting his BS and MS degrees in Agricultural Education with a focus on Agricultural Mechanization. While working as a lab assistant for AgEn 201, Steve had an opportunity to become a graduate instructor for the Agricultural Engineering Department in 1981 and was hired by Gerry Isaccs, AgEn department head. It was at that time that Dr. Mack Strickland took on one of the most difficult challenges in his life – to get Steve graduated.
During the next seven years, Steve had the opportunity to learn from and teach with a world-class faculty that included Mack Strickland, Arlen Brown, Don Jones, John Nye, Bruce McKenzie, Bill Friday, Richard Stroshine, Ed Monk, Harry Gibson, Bill Field, Dave Beasley, Martin Okos, John Barrett, Gary Krutz, Clarence Ritchie, Larry Huggins, and many others. Finally, in 1987, he finished up one of the first graduate programs to focus on computer simulation and modeling. During his graduate teaching assistantship, Steve taught/co-taught 36 total courses for the AgEn department, a record that probably still stands today. That experience, more than anything else in graduate school, prepared him for a career dedicated to working with students.
The first faculty position for Dr. Poe was with the Agricultural Systems Technology & Education department at Utah State University. So, along with soon-to-graduate spouse (Kitt Farrell-Poe), the family moved to Logan, Utah. Dr. Poe continued software development and teaching but started serving as a Cooperative Extension Specialist focusing on energy, livestock housing, and waste management. While continuing to teach, Dr. Poe’s increased consulting activities justified flying to remote locations throughout the southwest states logging almost 800 hours of flight time in his Cessna 182.
In 1998, Steve and Kitt accepted positions with the University of Arizona and moved to a branch campus in Yuma, Arizona, where Steve became the Academic Coordinator for the newly minted Agricultural Systems Management program in the department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. 1n 2009, the family was called to the main campus in Tucson, Arizona.
Dr. Poe has become an accomplished instructor in high demand with class sizes approaching 300 students per semester. Now, after 39 years of teaching college, Professor Poe has taught almost 8,000 students in 173 classes. He has authored almost a hundred publications, created dozens of computer programs, and has educational videos with over 3 million views. He credits Purdue University and the Agricultural Engineering Department (ABE) for being the best possible preparation for academic and vocational success, Mack Strickland for his continued mentoring, and his family (Kitt, Joshua, Kaitlin, Stephanie, and Alyson) for providing the love and motivation to keep him going.
Scott Strickland ASM BS '04
Scott Strickland works with CGB (Consolidated Grain and Barge Company), an innovative and entrepreneurial company whose core business revolves around the grain and transportation industries along the U.S. inland river systems. Scott works within CGB’s Grain Division as a General Manager of its Midwest Region, the largest of its four geographical grain regions. Scott is originally from West Lafayette, Indiana, and attended Purdue University earning a Bachelor Degree in Agricultural Systems Management, along with an Associate Degree in Agronomy. During college Scott completed six cooperative internships with John Deere & Co. where he focused on Product Marketing and Test Engineering in Augusta, Georgia, and as a Product Specialist Intern in their Western U.S. Sales Territory. Upon graduation in 2004, Scott accepted an opportunity to join CGB due to the comparative culture, the ability to work directly with farmers, and the opportunity to develop within a company to build a career.
Scott began his career as a Grain Operations Trainee in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, where he gained the fundamental understanding of the planning, execution, and physical aspects of the grain business. Then in the spring of 2005, he joined the Merchandising team at Mt. Vernon as a Merchant Trainee, gaining a greater understanding of commodity markets and the needs of producer customers.
In the fall of 2005, Scott was asked to become the Manager of a leased facility in Uniontown, Kentucky. Although being asked to manage folks that had been doing their jobs longer then he had been alive could be considered a fool’s errand, it proved to be one of the best experiences of his career, as it taught Scott about servant leadership and gave him the opportunity to own “his own” profit and loss statement. Then in the spring of 2007, Scott returned to Mt. Vernon to take on a new role as Group Manager of the Western Ohio Valley Region overseeing the Management, Merchandising and Operations of this asset grouping.
The summer of 2011, Scott joined the Ohio Valley Regional Trading Team at Jeffersonville, Indiana, where he focused on trading soybeans and barge freight for the Ohio River Segment for CGB, which built upon his commercial understanding. In the fall of 2013, Scott left the Ohio Valley Region to take on the role of Group Manager of three facilities at Hennepin, Utica and Peru, Illinois, within CGB’s Northern Illinois Region. This allowed him to return to his passions towards growing and developing people and assets, while expanding his experience to the customers and business structure of another Region.
In the spring of 2015, Scott was asked to take on his current role as General Manager, which has continued to expand into 35 grain facilities, 11 of which are river terminals. These facilities stretch across the Northern third of Illinois, into Northeast Iowa, and into Southern Minnesota.
Scott resides in Princeton, Illinois, with his wife Abby and enjoys sports, scouting, and outdoor activities with their 6-year-old son Cooper, playing princes tea party with their four-year-old daughter Madison, and eating breakfast and watching "The Rifleman" at 4 am with their 1-year-old son Cole.
2018 Outstanding ABE Alumni
Left to right: Brad Marks, Jack Lashenik, Yulin Lu, Darla Aker, Jeff Cannaday, S.T. Yang
Darla K. Aker, BS '98, MS '02
Darla grew up in Indiana and was encouraged by her father at a young age to be an engineer. She chose to leave high school early and start freshman engineering at Purdue in January of 1995. Darla graduated from Purdue with a BSABE in May of 1998 and begin working for Cummins Inc. as a product engineer. She obtained her MSE from Purdue in 2002 and her MBA from IU Kelley School of Business in 2014 while working at Cummins.
Darla has worked for Cummins for nearly 20 years and has had the opportunity to work in multiple segments, locations, and functions. She is currently the Executive Director of Quality and Service for the Components Segment of Cummins whose sales were a record $5.8 billion in 2017. The Components Segment is composed of four businesses whose products include aftertreatment, fuel systems, electronics, turbochargers, and filtration components. As the quality and service leader, she supports customers that include the other Cummins segments, truck manufacturers and other OEMs, many of which are also customers of the Engine segment. Darla enjoys the diversity of her work, leading teams globally and focusing on continuous product and process improvement.
Prior to her current role, Darla gained experience in quality, service engineering, materials and product engineering. Darla has been blessed with caring, thoughtful informal mentors and leaders throughout her career that have encouraged her to continue her education and supported her as she worked to integrate family and work life. One of the things she enjoys the most in her work is trying to do the same for others through coaching, encouraging and supporting them.
Darla and her husband Kevin, a fellow Cummins leader and Purdue alum, reside in Columbus, Indiana. Her stepson, Colin, graduated from Purdue in 2014 in Chemical Engineering and currently works for AdvanSix, a division of Honeywell. She has two daughters, Michaela (age 9) and Madelyn (age 5). Darla’s faith and family are important to her; she is active in her church and enjoys helping others achieve their full potential.
Jeff Cannaday, BS '00
After serving in the Marines from 1990-1996 (including Operation Desert Storm and two additional deployments as part of a Marine Amphibious Readiness Group), Jeff graduated from ABE in 2000. He immediately went to work for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in New Castle, Indiana. He also served as the Conservation Delivery Team engineer in Greencastle, Indiana (2003-2008). He returned to Lafayette in 2008 as the Northwest Area Engineer where he still covers the 22 counties in northwest Indiana.
As an Area Engineer, he provides technical assistance to the Field Office and Conservation Delivery Team (CDT) staff. This assistance involves analyzing and making recommendations for the more challenging projects. He also designs projects throughout the year including animal waste storage facilities, wetlands, grassed waterways, and several other practices NRCS uses to help the public address natural resource concerns. He is responsible for the technical training in the area and also assisting the NRCS State Engineer by coordinating and performing engineering training for the Conservation Partnership employees from all over Indiana.
He has been part of the flood recovery efforts under the Emergency Watershed Protection Program and project work under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act across the U.S., including New York, Kentucky, Tennessee, Montana, Colorado, and, most recently, Utah. His assistance includes providing some channel and bank stabilization designs in situations where the needs are evident and urgent. He enjoys assisting those affected with protecting their properties and supporting their emergency response personnel by protecting necessary travel routes. This exposure has provided the opportunity to diversify his experiences and explore alternative ways of accomplishing those goals.
Moving back has given him the opportunity to provide valuable support to the ABE department. He has been a very familiar face: at ABE Capstone project presentations, career fairs, engineering field tours, Graduate Student Symposiums, and Capstone project sponsorship as well. He has also served as a resource on the ABET accreditation advisory group.
Jeff and his wife have four daughters aged 3 to 11. The family is involved with their church and the girls are active in cello, gymnastics, ballet, soccer, basketball, and Tae Kwon Do. They grow some of their own food and preserve as much as possible. Jeff is an avid hunter and enjoys taking the girls along with him to the woods to learn to appreciate God’s creation and to take advantage of the occasional opportunity to fill the freezer with wild and free-range meat.
John A. "Jack" Lashenik, BS '98John “Jack” Lashenik is an executive vice president and partner of American Structurepoint, a multidiscipline engineering firm named by ENR Midwest as the No. 1 Indiana design firm and the No. 13 Top Design Firm in the Midwest. Jack is responsible for overall company growth and the implementation of systems and processes that lead to operational effectiveness and employee growth within all American Structurepoint’s 11 business units. Jack specifically leads the Architecture, Civil, Planning, Surveying, and Structural Groups.
A humble, blue-collar upbringing in Gary, Indiana, paired with a background in agricultural and biological engineering from Purdue University, gave Jack the foundation he needed to set out on his career path and achieve success at a young age.
In 1998, he received a Bachelor of Science in agricultural and biological engineering from Purdue University. In 1999, just one year after college, Jack joined American Structurepoint as an entry-level site design engineer. His experience includes site layout, grading, hydrology, road design, earthwork, utilities, water quality design, construction cost estimates, and permitting, as well as field investigations and preliminary site analyses. Since earning his professional engineering license in Indiana in 2004, Jack has developed impeccable relationships with real estate developers in the Midwest, propelling the accelerated growth of the company’s private-sector civil engineering practice. In January of 2006, Jack was promoted to vice president, focusing on client and project sales strategies and taking charge of the Civil Group. He later accepted principal responsibility for American Structurepoint’s Survey and Planning Groups. In May of 2011, Jack was invited to share ownership of the company. In 2012, ENR Midwest magazine selected Jack among its annual Top 20 Under 40 list, which honors young design and construction professionals on the basis of their contributions to their profession and their community. In 2013, he began leading the charge of American Structurepoint's Architecture and Structural Groups. His most recent promotion occurred in September 2017, when Jack was named executive vice president.
Jack is the kind of individual that always puts the needs of others before his and displays leadership qualities that build a solid organization. When called upon to expand certifications and qualifications geographically for the company, Jack volunteered and successfully passed a day-long exam to become a licensed professional engineer in the state of California—one of the strictest and most difficult states in which to earn a professional license. He also is a licensed engineer in Indiana, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, and Washington.
Jack’s enthusiasm in integrating the fields of architecture and engineering has led to the development of hundreds of unique and economically viable projects. His accomplishments are extraordinary, and he is regarded as a trusted leader and a valuable partner for American Structurepoint and their clients.
Jack currently resides in Indianapolis with his wife, Courtney, and their three sons, Will (14), Joe (11), and Ben (9). He gives back to the university by serving on the Purdue Engineering Alumni Association Board of Directors since 2015. Jack is a family man who enjoys coaching a variety of his sons’ sporting activities. He has just the right number for his golf foursome and is looking forward to helping with his sons’ more challenging math homework in the years ahead.
Yulin Lu, MS '08, PhD '08
Yulin Lu grew up in Zhenjiang, China, in the heart of the Yangtze River Delta, neighboring Nanjing and a few hours west of Shanghai. He went to college in Wuxi in 1999, at Southern Yangtze University, where he was enrolled in bioengineering within the national key discipline in fermentation engineering. While an undergraduate, he became fascinated by how enzymes catalyze reactions in such an elegant and efficient way, and was determined to advance his graduate studies in biochemical engineering; Purdue was naturally the first choice. He started graduate school at Purdue in 2003, under the direction of Prof. Nathan Mosier, and completed his M.S. in 2006 and Ph.D. in 2008. His doctoral dissertation work, “biomimetic catalysis for lignocellulosic plant biomass hydrolysis”, was completed upon the rich science foundation of the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering (LORRE), led by Prof. Michael Ladisch.
After graduation in 2008, he moved to Boston to join Mascoma Corporation, a venture-backed startup company in biofuels, where he was a research process engineer. For a freshly minted Ph.D., it was a rare opportunity to work on commercializing university research (Purdue, Dartmouth College) to build a cellulosic ethanol company. At Mascoma, he served as the process research lead for the Consolidated Bioprocessing (CBP) fermentation scale-up program which was funded by a US Dept of Energy ‘Integrated Biorefinery’(IBR) Grant, and developed pilot and demonstration processes up to 5000-gallon fermentors, and climbed up and down a 30-ft ethanol distillation column at the demo plant regularly for exercise.
Yulin moved to the San Francisco Bay area in 2011, joining Solazyme Inc. as a Senior Process engineer and Feedstock and Oil Processing Team Leader in the Process R&D team. There he worked on utilizing microalgae fermentation for renewable oil (medium-chain triglycerides and high oleic triglycerides) production from a wide variety of plant-based sugars (include cane sugar and cane refining intermediates). He was directly involved in
renewable oil processing development and technology transfer to a DOE Integrated Biorefinery demo plant in Peoria, IL and the first commercial plant in Sao Paulo, Brazil (a joint venture with Bunge).
From 2015 on, Yulin started working in the emerging food tech sector in the Bay area; he was last at Hampton Creek Inc, where he built and managed process development, pilot plant, and technology transfer teams, on developing technology using legumes to develop protein isolate as the main functional ingredient for plant-based scrambled eggs. Currently, he is managing the Engineering and Process Development at Impossible Foods Inc., a venture-backed food tech company started by Stanford Professor Pat Brown, aiming at using a biotechnology platform to replace animal farming. The company’s flagship product, Impossible Burger, utilizes Heme protein produced by yeast as a key protein ingredient. The move from biofuels to food tech is fascinating, and he thinks the proximity of the ABE and Food Science buildings back at Purdue may have something to do with it.
Yulin and his wife, Bei (Purdue Ph.D. MCMP, 2011), have two boys: Maxi (7), and Marco (4). Both boys are loyal fans to Purdue Basketball. The boys came back to Purdue for the first time last September, and are determined to become future boilermakers after the visit.
Bradley Marks, MS '92, PhD '93
Dr. Bradley P. Marks, P.E., professor and associate chairperson of biosystems and agricultural engineering at Michigan State University, earned his M.S.Ag.E. and Ph.D. in agricultural engineering from Purdue University in 1992 and 1993, working in the area of shelled corn storability, with Dr. Richard Stroshine as his major advisor.
After leaving Purdue, Dr. Marks spent six years as an assistant and associate professor at the University of Arkansas, prior to joining the faculty at Michigan State University (his undergraduate alma mater) in 1999.
Dr. Marks is a passionate teacher and educational leader, having developed seven new courses in his career. He has served as undergraduate program and ABET coordinator for over 15 years, during which undergraduate enrollment in the MSU biosystems engineering program has nearly tripled, and Dr. Marks received multiple teaching awards at the department, college, university, and national (ASABE) level. Most recently, he was awarded the MSU Beal Outstanding Faculty Award.
Dr. Marks leads an interdisciplinary research team in the area of microbial food safety, funded continuously by competitive federal grants, as principal investigator, for over 23 years, in addition to numerous industry-funded projects. He has served in a variety of leadership roles in food safety, including leading the MSU Food Safety Group, serving as a Food Fellow at MSU, chairing the program committee for the International Association for Food Protection, and serving in advisory capacities for the International Life Science Institute, the Almond Board of California, and the Food Protection and Defense Institute.
His current research focuses primarily on improving methods for validating pathogen reduction processes for low-moisture foods, which has yielded data and validation approaches currently in use in the industry. This work has very much brought Dr. Marks back to his research “roots,” using skills and knowledge he gained while working in grain storage during his graduate studies at Purdue.
Dr. Marks and his wife have twin daughters who currently are seniors in high school.
Shang-Tian Yang, MS '80, PhD '84
S T Yang grew up in Taiwan and attained his bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Chemistry from National Taiwan University. Following a two-year commission as a second lieutenant in the Republic of China Army, ST and his wife, I-Ching, came to Purdue to pursue their graduate studies in 1978. At Purdue, ST worked with Prof. Martin Okos on his MSE thesis studying immobilized enzyme for the hydrolysis of lactose in cheese whey, and PhD dissertation on methanogenesis from whey lactose using a defined mixed culture. His coursework was primarily completed in Chemical Engineering and several AgEng classes taught by Prof. Okos, Ladisch and Krutz. ST was a GTA with Prof. Okos to develop and teach the undergraduate Food Engineering Laboratory for two semesters. He wrote a winning USDA research proposal under the guidance of Prof. Okos. These experiences and training led him to a faculty position with The Ohio State University following a one-year postdoc with Prof. George Tsao and Dr. Nancy Ho at LORRE.
ST joined The Ohio State University Chemical Engineering Department as an Assistant Professor in 1985, where he developed the biochemical engineering program and was promoted to full professor in 1997. Currently, he is a professor in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Food Science & Technology, Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology Programs at OSU. He also holds adjunct or visiting professor positions in more than a dozen universities in China and other countries. For the past 33 years at OSU, he has advised and trained over 30 MS students, 75 PhD students and 25 postdoctoral researchers, who work in various industries and universities in more than a dozen countries. In addition, his lab has hosted more than 50 visiting scientists and professors from different countries. Many of them hold senior leadership positions in their organizations. ST has established an eminent research program in bioprocess engineering, and has directed over 80 research projects on novel bioprocesses for value-added products from biomasses such as agricultural residues and food processing wastes, metabolic engineering for chemicals and biofuels production, cell and tissue engineering, and biochips for high-throughput drug screening and biodiagnostics. These research projects have been supported by over $10 million in funding from federal and state agencies (NSF, DOE, USDA, DOT, NIH, ODOD, etc.), private industries, and foundations. His research has generated 12 US patents, and many of his technologies have been transferred to companies for commercial development.
Dr. Yang is a co-founder of 3 biotech startup companies and has served as a scientific advisor and consultant to many companies. He has more than 320 publications, including 268 journal papers, 25 proceedings papers, 34 book chapters, 2 edited books in the field of bioprocess engineering, with over 11600 citations and an h-index of 62. He is an elected fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering and an active member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the American Chemical Society. He is an Associate Editor for the journal Process Biochemistry and editorial board member for over a dozen of research journals. He has also served as a reviewer on many proposal review panels for various funding agencies worldwide.
ST and I-Ching have three sons, all graduated from The Ohio State University College of Engineering. ST plans to continue his teaching and research at OSU for at least several more years.
2017 Outstanding ABE Alumni - Col. Richard W. Dean, II, Dale A. Gick, Anna Hayes, David J. "Dave" Koellisch, Ted S. Macy, John M. Shutske
2016 Outstanding Alumni - Mark Bowers, Nathan Fleck, Jill E.K. Gough, David Guntrip, Kevin King, Joseph Miller
2015 Outstanding Alumni - Danielle Bellmer, Susanne R. "Suzie" Delay, Lawrence D. "Larry" Gaultney, Steven E. Havlik, Sergio Hernandez, J. Bradley "Brad" Lukac, Betsy F. Willis
2014 Outstanding Alumni - Susan L. Brocksmith, John "Chris" Layer, Daniel Orr, Lonnie Oxley, Karl Weiss, Ryan Williams
2013 Outstanding Alumni - John R. Brubaker, Douglas E. Dawes, Brad Fife, Cynthia A. McCracken, Kevin Richman, Ronald H. Thieme
2012 Outstanding Alumni - Johann (Joe) R. Garwood, Dennis A. Kim, Reid Waitt, Amos Wu
2011 Outstanding Alumni - Edwin Bahler, Jonathan Landes, Rebecca Thompson, Brian Vorst
2010 Outstanding Alumni - Michael Cox, Brad Meyerholtz, Mark Zeltwanger
2009 Outstanding Alumni - Jeffrey F. Birkel, Ryan D. Howard, Gary A. Michel
2008 Outstanding Alumni - Dr. Charles Spillman, Dr. Michael Veenhuizen
2007 Outstanding Alumni - Del Botcher, Jason Shonk, Ernest Streicher, Edward Vondell
2006 Outstanding Alumni - Tetuo Hara, Terry Brown
2005 Outstanding Alumni - Scott Benko, W. Douglas Griffin, Stanley Morton, Dr. Leroy Pickett
2004 Outstanding Alumni - Thomas Burke, Michael R. Duncan, C. Gene Haugh, Otto Loewer, Melcy Curth Pond, John Rettinger
2003 Outstanding Alumni - Joseph K. Boddiford, Jr., Yael Edan, Mauri Fortes, Levon L. Mathews, David W. Smith, William C. Werner
2002 Outstanding Alumni - Kevin L. Eikenberry, Jane L. Lavey, Evandro C. Mantovani, Michael E. Massone, Lyle F. Stephens
2001 Outstanding Alumni - David B. Beasley, Donald M. Edwards, Ted S. Macy, Kurt Waananen, Philip J. Wegh
2000 Outstanding Alumni - John C. Nye, Gerald A. Powell, Dale D. Reed, Katherine P. Wettschurack, Larry R. Wettschurack
1999 Outstanding Alumni - Marvin Joray, Bruce McKenzie, Matthew Reynolds, Harold Schramm, Larry Segerlind, Harmon Towne
1998 Outstanding Alumni - William Carteaux, John Greiner, W. David Shoup