BSE - Graduate Stories: Ryan Anderson


Ryan Anderson
Master's student, Agricultural and Biological Systems Engineering
Willowbrook, IL
Advisors: Drs. Jeyam Subbiah and Deepak Keshwani
Expected Graduation: May 2018

When Chicago native Ryan Anderson was looking at graduate schools for food engineering and processing, what drew him to UNL was one of his current advisors.

“I chose UNL because I was always told that when picking graduate schools, your advisor is the number one thing to look at,” he says. “When I visited UNL, I always felt welcome by Dr. Subbiah and he seemed like he had a very good program and was someone that would be easy to work with and meet with on a frequent occasion.”

Anderson joined Subbiah in his lab in the newly built Food Innovation Center on the Innovation Campus and set out to refine and narrow his interests in food engineering. Then Subbiah approached him with a National Science Foundation video project. This was an opportunity to work on a game, “Agpocalypse 2050,” that would educate middle school, high school, and college students about how the food, energy, and water systems are all connected and about the global consequences that one person’s actions could have for years to come. Anderson would also have the opportunity to work with a second advisor, Deepak Keshwani.

Anderson took the opportunity.

“I still help do research in the lab,” he says, “but my master’s thesis right now is looking into this new movement in science called the food-energy-water nexus research in which scientists use data on the food-energy-water systems to better understand how they’re related. Understanding this, they’re better able to optimize resources and make decisions that will affect climate change and, hopefully, global food security.”

Working on this project in addition to his lab work, Anderson will not only have relevant experience in food or process engineering but could also work in consulting engineering.

“This food-water-energy nexus research is part of another trend called ‘big data’ where you take all of this data and combine all of these systems together to try to create one big model,” he says. “It’s a trendy business venture now to get into big data, so even if it’s not specifically agriculture, I might look into something where I can apply what I’ve learned in integrative modeling.”

His choice of advisor helped him go from narrowing his interests to broadening them.

“Being here for a few months now,” he says, “I have been able to diversify myself even more, learning how to do integrative modeling of systems I am new to while also being able to still work in the lab I was excited to be in.”