BSE - History


Department History Timeline 1869 - 2012


February 15, 1869 - The University of Nebraska was founded.

1872 - The Industrial College, comprised of the School of Agriculture and the School of Engineering, was established.

1887 - The Agricultural Experiment Station was founded under the Hatch Act. Oscar Van Pelt

1895 - Oscar Van Pelt Stout, an Associate Professor in Civil Engineering who specialized in Irrigation Engineering, was hired by the Agricultural Experiment Station to conduct irrigation research. In that year he wrote the Nebraska Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin, No. 41, entitled Water Supply in Nebraska, with extensive information on Western Nebraska and irrigation canals.

He established the Farm Mechanics Department, and later, the Department of Agricultural Engineering. He was the first to use the professional title of Agricultural Engineer. O. V. P. Stout served as Dean of Engineering from 1912-1920, with a leave of absence during WWI.

 For his early leadership in developing the profession of Agricultural Engineering, O. V. P. Stout was awarded the first McCormick Gold Medal, the highest award in the American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE). In the citation, he was acknowledged as the father of Agricultural Engineering.McCormick Gold Medal


1904 - A division of Farm Mechanics was organized within the Mechanical Engineering Department with J. B. Davidson as head.
1905 - J. B. Davidson left to join Iowa State College to develop a program in Agricultural Engineering.

1905 - After his graduation in 1905, Leon Wilson Chase (picture on the left) was selected to head the Farm Mechanics Department. He designed and supervised construction of the Farm Mechanics laboratory building which was located just east of the Plant Science Building on East Campus.

Mr. Chase earned a Masters in Science in Agricultural Engineering from Iowa State University in 1914 and developed a program of instruction consisting of four years of mechanical engineering and one year of agriculture. L. W. Chase was one of the founders of ASAE and served as President in 1913.

Leon Wilson ChaseIvan D. Wood

1908 - An Agricultural Engineering degree program in the College of Engineering was initiated and Ivan D. Wood (pictured to the right) was one of three in the first class to graduate. He also received the first Masters degree in Agricultural Engineering in the U.S. from the University of Nebraska in 1914 and served on the faculty as the first Extension Agricultural Engineer.

John Deere medal

Most of his early work was devoted to tractor operation, but he also dealt with drainage projects, construction of pit silos, and related harvesting operations.

Mr. Wood later became National Extension Program Leader for the USDA in irrigation, and served as President of ASAE. He received the John Deere Medal in 1952. (picture on the right.)

1908 - ASAE founded. J. B. Davidson served as the first President of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers upon its organization. J. B. Davidson received the second McCormick Gold Medal.

1909 - The Industrial College was separated into the College of Agriculture and the College of Engineering. Three men graduated in 1909: C. K. Shedd, J. P. Burke, and L. F. Seaton. Shedd would later become the first engineer-in-charge of Nebraska Tractor Test. Seaton Hall, on the City Campus, was named for L. F. Seaton who became a University comptroller.

The class of 1913-1914 and their faculty. Three of the men in this photo went on to become University of Nebraska department administrators: L. W. Chase (1905-20), O. W. Sjogren (1920-29), and E. E. Brackett (1929-47)

Class of 1913-1914

Back row, left to right: L. G. Clark, D. P. Weeks, W. C. Coupland, C. H. Anderson, L. Rhodes, J. G. Thompson
Front row, left to right: W. A. Nelson, A. Kjeldgaad, L. W. Chase, E. E. Brackett, A. A. Baer, O. W. Sjogren, J. P. Fairbanks

1918-20 - The Agricultural Engineering Building was constructed. It was used for military training in World War I, and became available for regular classes in the spring of 1919. The building was dedicated in 1920. It was designed by L. W. Chase and now bears his name.
Agricultural Engineering building

1919 - W. F. Crozier of Osceola and Charles Warner of Waverly, with L. W. Chase as technical advisor, developed the Nebraska Tractor Test Law. The law created and placed the Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory in the Agricultural Engineering Department.


1920 - Tractor tests were initiated, and over 2,175 tractors (ranging in horsepower from 1.5 to over 400) have been tested to date. The Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory remains the world standard for tractor performance testing. The long oval tractor-test track is a distinctive landmark on East Campus. Oval tractor test track aerial view

1920 - O. W. Sjogren, a 1915 graduate of the department, was selected chair (1920-29). Sjogren served as president of ASAE in 1926-27.

1929 - E. E. Brackett became chair (1929- 47) and served as ASAE president in 1940-41.

1937 - The Agricultural Engineering program at the University of Nebraska was accredited. It is one of the oldest nationally accredited engineering programs in the country.


1947 - L. W. Hurlbut was selected chair and served until 1965. He was president of ASAE in 1960-61. The Mechanized Agriculture program was developed in 1960 under Hurlbut's leadership. L.W. Hurlbut 1966 - Dr. John R. Davis served briefly as chair and then became dean of the College of Engineering and Architecture. Dr. Robert W. Kleis served as chair from 1966 to 1968, and then became assistant director of the Agricultural Experiment Station.
- Dr. William E. Splinter (class of 1949) was named chair and served until 1987. Dr. Splinter served as president of ASAE in 1978-79, and was awarded the John Deere Gold Medal in 1995. He also served as the director of the Lester F. Larson Tractor Test and Power Museum, which is housed in the original Tractor Test building, north of Chase Hall.  Dr. William E. Splinter with the tractor that brought about the Nebraska Tractor Test law, the Minnesota Ford B, manufactured in 1915.Dr. Bill Splinter with red Ford tractorJohn Deere medal


- Ph. D. program was established in the Agricultural Engineering Department as a component of the unified Ph. D. program of the College of Engineering. A Masters program in Mechanized Agriculture was authorized in 1977.
1979 - The department's research laboratory building was constructed to house Nebraska Tractor Test, the department shop, and research and teaching laboratories.

1981 - Agricultural Engineering Hall was renovated to its present condition. On March 18, 1982, the building was rededicated as L. W. Chase Hall.

L.W. Chase Hall Office in 1942 Office in 1999
Second floor administrative offices, 1942. Second floor administrative offices, 1999. 1988 - The Industrial Agricultural Products Center was initiated as a research component to develop partnerships between IANR and companies. Glenn Hoffman

1989 - Dr. Glenn J. Hoffman was selected head of the department. He came to the department from the USDA/ARS Water Management Laboratory in Fresno, California, where he was the Lab Director.


1990 - The department changed its name to Biological Systems Engineering - the first accredited program of its kind in the country.

1990 - Degrees in Biological Systems Engineering and Water Science were initiated.

1991 - The Mechanized Agriculture program was revised and renamed Mechanized Systems Management. The graduate engineering program was entitled Agricultural and Biological Systems Engineering to accommodate both majors.
classroom 112 classroom 116
1999 - Two classrooms were remodeled to accommodate telecommunications, and further enhanced in 1999. Room 112 (above left), and room 116 (above right) feature ceiling-mounted cameras for text display, networked computers, desktop computer ports for students, and television cameras for distance education classes, controlled in a control room located between the classrooms.

1999 - Both the Agricultural Engineering and Biological Systems Engineering programs were evaluated for continuing accreditation by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Both programs passed and were granted the maximum period of 6 years before the next review.

2003 - The Biological Systems Engineering Department is administered today essentially in the same format as set forth in 1908. The Biological Systems and Agricultural engineering undergraduate programs are administered by the College of Engineering. The Mechanized Systems Management and Water Science undergraduate programs are administered in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR).

The graduate degree programs leading to the Masters in Mechanized Systems Management, Masters in Agricultural and Biological Systems Engineering, Masters in Environmental Engineering, Masters of Agriculture, Masters of Engineering, and the Ph. D. in Engineering are administered by the Graduate College.

Departmental budgets are administered by the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Teaching programs are budgeted through the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, research programs through the Agricultural Research Division, and extension programs through Cooperative Extension.

Massey-Ferguson medal

During the 2003 National ASAE Meeting, Dr. Glenn Hoffman received the Massey-Ferguson Educational Award. The purpose of this award is "To honor those whose dedication to the spirit of learning and teaching in the field of agricultural engineering has advanced our agricultural knowledge and practice, and whose efforts serve as an inspiration to others." Two other members of the department have received the medal in the past: Dr. William Splinter (1978) and Dr. Don Edwards (1994).

At the same National ASAE Meeting, Dr. Derrel Martin was elected as an ASAE Fellow for the 2002-2003 Society Year.

Dr. Glenn Hoffman retired as Department Head in June. Dr. Derrel Martin served as the Interim Head.


Two significant events occurred in the department: a major renovation in the basement, and the appointment of a new Department Head.

Good-bye to the last vestiges of the old basement and hello to a state-of-the-art Biomedical Imaging and Biosignal Analysis Laboratory. Dr. Greg Bashford's lab features equipment used for medical imaging studies and biosignal analysis, such as ultrasound mammography for breast cancer screening, echodentography, cardiovascular flow quantification, ECG/EEG instrumentation, and evoked potentials for neurological experiments.

Biomedical Lab Dr. Ron Yoder

Dr. Ronald Yoder was selected as the new Department Head and assumed his duties in November 2004.

Dr. Yoder was previously at the University of Tennessee for 12 years, the last four as department head. Before arriving at UT in 1992, he served stints as an agricultural engineer at the University of Wyoming, Hertzler Farm and Livestock Co. and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service. He received his bachelor of science in civil engineering from Drexel University in Philadelphia in 1976, his master of science in agricultural engineering from Clemson University in 1978 and his doctorate in ag engineering from Colorado State University in 1988.

William Splinter and dignataries In honor and recognition of his many years of service and gifts to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Department, the Biological Systems Engineering Laboratories (adjacent to the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab) were renamed the Splinter Laboratory. Dr. Splinter (third from left) served as the Department Head, when it was called Agricultural Engineering, from 1968 to 1988. He has received numerous awards and honors. A bronze plaque commemorating the name change was placed in the building. 2006 - Both the Agricultural Engineering and Biological Systems Engineering programs were evaluated in the fall of 2005 for continuing accreditation by ABET. Both programs passed and were granted the maximum period of 6 years before the next review. 2007 - A new track was created for the Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory during the summer of 2007, and officially dedicated in a ceremony for friends and dignitaries on October 11. The new track is wider and longer which will accommodate the larger tractors of today and permit testing of other equipment, such as road graders. Read the whole story in the December 2007 newsletter.

2008- A new, state-of-the art lab for Nonviral Gene Delivery and Cell Culture was officially dedicated in February. The lab, directed by Dr. Angela Pannier, is located in the lower lever of Chase Hall. Read more in the August 2008 newsletter.


2010- The Translational and Regenerative Medicine Imaging laboratory
(TREM), using MRI, was dedicated in April. The lab is under the direction of Dr. Shadi Othman and is located in the lower level of Chase Hall. Read more in the July 2010 newsletter.


Carol Swarts

Continuing to add resources for our students, The Swartz Family Biological Engineering Teaching Lab was dedicated in October. Also located on the lower level of Chase Hall, this lab features state-of-the-art equipment. The lab will be used primarily by undergraduate students for a variety of courses and subjects including biomaterials, biomedical engineering, agricultural engineering, tissue engineering, and food processing. Carol Swarts, M.D., led the fund-raising with a generous gift. Additional support was provided by private donations to the University Foundation, and from UNL allocations, with an additional gift from Les and Harriet Jochens.

2011 Ron Yoder accepted the position of Associate Vice Chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR). Milford Hanna is the Interim Department Head.

2012 Dr. Mark Riley was selected as the new Department Head and assumed his duties in October 2012.Mark Riley, department head