Bio & Personal Information

Expertise Summary

My Extension, research, and teaching activity focuses on safety, risk control, and health promotion in agriculture and other industries. My Extension program leadership role allows me to develop research-based educational programs and curricula with colleagues across the state and across the country. The programs are intended to prevent injury, illness, and other types of loss and to mitigate the related negative impacts from farm stress. Historically, and in 2021, I worked across disciplines (farm management, animal science, bacteriology) in agriculture as well as veterinary medicine, public health, epidemiology, medicine, mental health, and program evaluation. I hold an affiliate Professor appointment in Family Medicine in the School of Medicine and Public Health and have worked to expand agriculture’s connections to the Wisconsin Academy of Rural Medicine and the Rural Health Equity program track.

In 2021, I worked with the NCERA-197 Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension national committee as an incoming vice-chair with that group’s Executive Committee to develop a comprehensive national report that document the work of members across the U.S. (including Wisconsin) during a five-year period. In total, national summary outcomes for this group included: program leadership generating $45 million in competitive program and research support; partnering with organizations such as the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health, and Canadian Agricultural Safety Association; training and professional development programs for 300,000 farmers, ranchers, and hired workers; and publication of a comprehensive report on confined spaces and grain bins injuries. The full NCERA-197 impact report is at:

As a researcher, I lead a multi-institutional, multidisciplinary project (dairy science, biological systems engineering, epidemiology, bacteriology, veterinary medicine, infection control and medicine) focused on the health and safety of workers in the dairy industry. Our team focuses on the roles and risk factors among dairy farm workers with a focus on infection control and antibiotic resistance. We employ an engineering-based systems approach that includes methods and frameworks being deployed in healthcare-based infection control. On another project, in 2021, we made important progress on research to quantify risk associated with new driverless, automated, robotic, and other novel agricultural equipment. This work will lead to new engineering design standards and best practices for those who design, insure, regulate, and use new machinery forms such as autonomous tractors, harvesters, robots, and other field and farmstead equipment. We have assembled a planning committee with industry engineers, the equipment manufacturer’s main association, funding agencies, standards experts, and safety experts and hope to convene a national conference in 2022 to advance policy recommendations and a comprehensive set of research questions to form the basis for new funding initiatives.

In 2021, we also began the work of “FarmWell Wisconsin,” a $1 million Wisconsin Partnership Program (WPP) grant funded through a large endowment of the WPP. FarmWell includes the community partner—Southwest Community Action Program as well as UW’s Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies. I am the UW’s academic lead on this project, spending about 10% of my time on the project focused on developing a comprehensive set of programs that promote health, well-being, and mental health among farmers. This project also led to an additional $114,000 in USDA funding in 2021 to support development of a highly focused program for farmers titled WeCope which will be unveiled and fully evaluated in 2022.

In the classroom, I have taught our engineering design process course (BSE 508) for five years. I completed my role as lead in that class in May 2021. I continue to advise student teams as part of the capstone design courses (BSE 508 and 509), and in 2021 led a team that developed a thermocouple-based, early fire detection and prediction system for grain combines. Moving into 2022, I will continue to lead our BSE 308 – Career Management for Engineers class for the BSE department and other College of Engineering undergraduates. I have developed a BSE 308 YouTube channel that provides access to original class materials, and these are increasingly being accessed and used both in other classroom and outreach settings nationally and internationally.

Twitter: @WIAgLeader

Program Affiliations

  • Biological Systems Engineering
  • School of Medicine & Public Health (SMPH) Affiliate Professor

Education and Certificates

  • B.S. 1983 – Agricultural Mechanization, Purdue University
  • M.S. 1984 – Agricultural Mechanization, Purdue University, Modeling of Specialty Crop Machinery Systems
  • Ph.D. 1988 – Agricultural Engineering, Purdue University, Agricultural Machinery Safety

Fields of Interest

  • Safety engineering and education related to occupational and public health hazards in agricultural and food systems
  • Multidisciplinary approaches for solving complex risk-related problems
  • Risk assessment of highly automated agricultural machines including automated, autonomous, and robot applications and platforms
  • Stress, mental health, human factors and the connection to farm injury and worker health


  • BSE 508: Biological Systems Engineering Senior Design (2017-2021, now team adviser only)
  • BSE 308: Career Management for Engineers
  • Several Extension programs connected to agricultural technology, safety and human health


Selected Awards and Honors

  • ASABE SMV Technologies Ergonomics, Safety, and Health Award, recognizes outstanding contributions which advance agricultural and biological safety and health. 2022
  • Wisconsin Agri-Business Association, Outstanding Service to Industry Award. 2017
  • UW-Extension Chancellor’s Award, recognizing exceptional teaching, outreach, collaborations and public service of both UW Colleges and UW-Extension employees, as well as valued partners and supporters. 2016
  • ASABE Superior Paper Award, presented to nominees with peer-reviewed journal articles deemed to be in the top 2.5% of those published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. 2007.
  • University of Minnesota Star Faculty Award – Given to top 5% of UMN faculty based on performance in research, education, service and outreach. 2006
  • Nolan Mitchell Young Extension Worker Award for outstanding contributions to agricultural safety and health. Presented by ASAE. 1998.
  • Dean and Director’s Distinguished Diversity and Inclusion Award for the Minnesota AgrAbility Project and Minnesota Migrant Health Promoter Project. 1996.