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A Word from Biological Systems Engineering


Mary Leigh Wolfe Mary Leigh Wolfe, department head, Biological Systems Engineering

The biological systems engineering researchers who will work in the new Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1 have a simple but ambitious goal: to solve some of the biggest problems facing the world today.

From discovering new sources of energy to ensuring people have clean water to drink, our researchers will tackle some of today’s complex challenges by utilizing the most cutting-edge science and advanced technologies available.

In recent years, we have developed methods to advance production of biofuels from nonfood biomass, and we have explored how to recover energy and produce value-added products from agricultural and industrial wastes. In our new building, we will not only continue that work but also expand into new areas. We will find ways to combat addiction through novel vaccines, cure cancers by developing new targeted drug delivery methods, engineer enzymes and metabolic pathways to process biological feedstocks with minimal residuals, keep pathogens from contaminating food and water, and maintain or improve health through functional foods.

The new workspace will be invaluable as our department continues to grow. In the past five years, the number of students in our department has more than doubled — and for a good reason. The work we do here is as complex as it is fascinating and more important than ever. Our research affects everyone from the residents of Southwest Virginia to members of energy-hungry developing nations.

The new building will allow our burgeoning student population to work alongside professors and researchers as they apply the concepts of biology, chemistry, physics, engineering science, and design principals to solve problems of biological systems.

U.S. News and World Report recently ranked our department’s graduate curriculum as seventh in the nation among biological and agricultural engineering programs. Our new facility will allow us to build on that great reputation as well as allow expansion into arenas where our research can make a difference in the way we live, eat, and function as a society.

We look forward to sharing our work with you.


Mary Leigh Wolfe

Department Head
Biological Systems Engineering