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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABENG)

Program Home Page

PAUL H. HEINEMANN, Head of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
250 Agricultural Engineering Building


Degrees Conferred:

Ph.D., M.S.


The Graduate Faculty


The Programs

Agricultural and Biological Engineering offers students the opportunity to gain expertise in areas of engineering for biological/agricultural systems corresponding to their professional interests. Graduate students select research projects (and supporting course work) from a wide range of interest areas that match faculty research expertise. Research projects are available in physical properties of biological materials, plant and animal production systems, food engineering, wood engineering, agricultural structures, agricultural safety, food safety, bulk solids handling and storage, agricultural systems engineering, agricultural by-product utilization, forage processing and handling systems, electronics instrumentation, online computer control systems, erosion and sedimentation control, waste management, water quality, and natural resources management and conservation.

Excellent facilities, including equipment and instrumentation, are available for research in the designated areas. Among the special facilities are field plot areas; a full-scale sedimentation basin test facility; hydraulic flumes; sedigraph; gas and ion chromatography units; atomic absorption unit; rainfall simulators; food properties lab; food equipment and processing lab; microbiological engineering lab; computer vision systems; hydraulic and pneumatic test stands; fabrication shop; electronics instrumentation; microcomputer laboratory; controlled environment chambers; wood structures lab; and wood mechanics lab. Collaborative arrangements allow access to a large variety of other resources: Penn State Institutes of the Environment; Particulate Materials Center; Housing Research Center; Center for Food Manufacturing; USDA Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Lab; a mushroom research and demonstration facility and a 1,500-acre agricultural research center for cooperative work with agronomic and horticultural production systems as well as animal production systems.

Admission Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to general Graduate School requirements stated in the GENERAL INFORMATION section of the Graduate Bulletin.

An undergraduate major in engineering is normally a prerequisite to work in the major. Students without an undergraduate engineering degree will be considered for admission on a provisional basis pending the completion of a number of additional credits to be specified on an individual basis.

All students must submit scores from the General Aptitude Test of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) prior to admission (except those who have an ABET-accredited engineering degree). There is no minimum GRE score required for admission, as this is only one of several qualifications considered in the admission review process. However, financial assistance is often influenced by the degree of success exhibited by GRE scores and grade-point averages (GPAs) from previous engineering programs. International applicants must submit OFFICIAL transcripts, degree, and diploma certificates in both English and the native language.

Photocopies will not be accepted. All international applicants whose first language is not English or who have not received baccalaureate or master's degrees from an institution in which the language of instruction is English must take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and submit the results of that test with the application for admission. A TOEFL score of 550 on the paper test or a score of 213 on the computer-based test is required for admission. The TOEFL exam must be taken within three years of the application date.

All applicants must provide the department with official transcripts of all their previous course work (in duplicate), a statement of purpose written by the applicant, and at least three letters of recommendation. Admission into the A B E Graduate Program is based upon a thorough review of all applicant qualifications, and the best-qualified applicants will be accepted up to the number of students for which department resources are available.

Entrance to Master of Science Program

Completion of an undergraduate degree in agricultural or biological engineering or in another related engineering discipline is required for direct admission to the A B E graduate program. Students need at least a 2.50 (4.00 base) junior/senior grade-point average to be considered for admission.

A student with an undergraduate degree in a non-engineering field can be admitted to the M.S. program on a provisional basis, which continues until completing the engineering undergraduate requirements in mathematics, physics, engineering sciences (thermodynamics, statics, dynamics, strength of materials, fluid-mechanics and electrical circuitry), and 6 credits of 400-level Agricultural and Biological Engineering courses. Upon completion of these preparatory courses with a minimum grade-point average of 2.75, the student will be admitted to the graduate program.

Entrance to Doctor of Philosophy Program

The requirement for direct acceptance is an M.S. degree with a research thesis in an engineering or science discipline and a B.S. degree from an engineering program. Only very highly qualified students will be accepted into the Ph.D. program directly from a B.S. engineering program.

A student with an undergraduate degree in a non-engineering field can be admitted to the Ph.D. program on a provisional basis, which continues until completing the engineering undergraduate requirements in mathematics, physics, engineering sciences (thermodynamics, statics, dynamics, strength of materials, fluid mechanics and electrical circuitry), and 6 credits of 400-level Agricultural and Biological Engineering courses.

Master's Degree Requirements

All candidates for the M.S. degree must prepare a thesis, complete a minimum of 30 graduate credits (including a minimum of 6 credits of research), and obtain a minimum grade-point average of 3.00. Only grades of C or better are accepted for graduate credit. Each program should include at least one course each from the areas of agricultural and biological engineering, agricultural/biological science, mathematics or statistics, and A B E 500 Research Methods. A total of at least 12 credits of course work must be at the 500 level. All courses must be approved by the student's advisory committee as having significance and value for the degree program. All requirements for a master of science degree, whether satisfied at Penn State or elsewhere, must be met within five years from the first semester of graduate study.

Additional program details are contained in a graduate syllabus, available from the department.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

Official entrance into a Ph.D. program occurs upon successful completion of the Ph.D. Candidacy Exam. Ph.D. degree requirements include successful completion of the following: approved graduate course work, Ph.D. language and communication requirements, a comprehensive examination, and defense and approval of a dissertation.

No specified number of courses completed or credits earned are required by the department. However, the candidate must complete at least 9 credits of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (A B E) course work beyond the baccalaureate degree. Six credits must be 500-level A B E courses (excluding A B E 500, 590, 594, 595, 596); the remaining 3 credits must be in any A B E 460 course or higher. Unless previously taken, all Ph.D. students must complete A B E 500. The student's doctoral advisory committee will recommend the minimum requirements in such supporting areas as mathematics, engineering, agricultural/biological sciences, and physical sciences. The candidate is expected to develop a program of study and submit it to the appointed doctoral advisory committee for consideration and approval. All Ph.D. students are required to participate in resident education or extension teaching activities for the equivalent of at least one semester during their graduate program. A typical plan of study consists of about 90 credits beyond the baccalaureate degree with about 30 of the total credits for research. All requirements for a Ph.D. degree, whether satisfied on this campus or elsewhere, must be completed within seven years after passing the candidacy examination.

PH.D. LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION REQUIREMENT--The purpose of the communication requirement is to strengthen the student's professional communication skills. The candidate must take a minimum of two courses (a minimum total of 5 credits) and receive a grade of B or better in each course taken. Course selections must be approved by the academic adviser prior to registration. Courses used to satisfy this requirement must include the substantial practice of writing and/or speaking.

Other Relevant Information

Continuous fall and spring registration is required for all graduate students until the thesis is approved.

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships and other forms of student aid are described in the STUDENT AID section of the Graduate Bulletin.


Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 599 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.



Faculty linked: 5/12/14


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