To change the world: Student motivation for pursuing a degree in Agricultural or biological engineering

Jennifer Keshwani, Evan Curtis

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Demands for food, water, energy and healthcare continue to increase along with the increasing world population while the resources available to meet these demands remain limited. An innovative workforce capable of designing creative solutions to these problems is needed. Agricultural and biological engineers focus on food, water, energy and healthcare systems and will play a pivotal role in meeting these challenges. However, public awareness of these fields and their impact on society is limited. The objective of this study was to assess undergraduate student understanding of Agricultural Engineering (AE) or Biological Engineering (BE) degree programs and identify key motivating factors to pursuing a degree/career in these fields. Sophomore AE and BE students enrolled in a course on the engineering properties of biological materials were the focus of this study. At the beginning and end of the semester, students submitted definitions in their own words to describe their chosen major (Agricultural Engineering or Biological Engineering) and explained their motivation for pursing a degree in this field. The information gathered suggests both student definitions of their chosen major and motivations for pursuing a career in this field are closely tied to opportunities to positively impact society. The findings of this study can be used to guide student recruitment strategies to increase enrollment in these fields. Recruitment efforts should highlight the many ways agricultural and biological engineers positively affect the world. In addition, instructional techniques can be adapted to meet the unique characteristics and motivations of students enrolled in AE or BE degree programs. For example, course instructors can connect theoretical course content to realworld examples. Meeting the challenges of a growing world population will require broadening participation in agriculture and biological engineering. Promoting the potential of these fields to solve real-world challenges related to food, water, energy and healthcare will help inspire the next generation of agricultural and biological engineers to meet these needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 24 2017
Event124th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Columbus, United States
Duration: Jun 25 2017Jun 28 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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