New agricultural engineering faculty will advance research, technology

September 29, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Two new faculty members in Penn State's Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering will advance research and academics in agricultural engineering and technologies.

The addition of Daeun Choi and Long He fulfills a priority of the department to strengthen research that supports mechatronics, robotics, automation, precision agriculture and unmanned aerial vehicles, according to Paul Heinemann, professor and head of the department, which is administered jointly by the College of Agricultural Sciences and the College of Engineering.

"We are excited to have Drs. Choi and He lead research and academics in these innovative technologies, and we are confident their knowledge and expertise will drive technological advances for the benefit of the agricultural sector and beyond," he said.

Distinguished Professor Karen Thole, head of the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, shared Heinemann's enthusiasm.

"The opportunities in the fields of mechatronics and automation are immense right now and well into the foreseeable future," she said. "The hiring of these two excellent faculty in agricultural and biological engineering will lead to a number of opportunities for our students and faculty to collaborate in mechanical and nuclear engineering and across the institution."

Choi earned undergraduate degrees in bio-mechatronic engineering and economics from Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea. She received master's and doctoral degrees in agricultural and biological engineering from the University of Florida.

During her graduate studies, she developed several intelligent vision sensing systems to forecast citrus yield in individual trees, to detect excessive fruit drops for early warning of diseases and malnutrition, and to quickly diagnose common citrus diseases of individual citrus in the post-harvest process.

Choi's research at Penn State will focus on developing agricultural robotics and intelligent sensing systems for Pennsylvania specialty crops, especially tree fruit and mushrooms. Her other research interests involve precision agriculture, farm automation and autonomous vehicle applications in agriculture.

She has published eight articles in top-tier journals and conference proceedings, and she has presented her research at numerous international and national conferences. In addition, her research in developing practical solutions to the most destructive citrus disease in history -- citrus greening -- was reported in national and international newspapers.

One of her goals is to develop a course for precision agriculture and agricultural robotics that will give students hands-on experience in emerging precision agriculture technologies such as drone and smart crop sensors.

Long He received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and a doctorate in mechatronics engineering from Yanshan University in China. He served as a postdoctoral research associate and research engineer at Washington State University and as a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Davis.

His research interests and expertise are in agricultural machinery and automation, mechanization in specialty crop production, and fluid power (hydraulic and pneumatic) transmission and control.

A holder of two patents stemming from his work, He developed a robotic high-trellis hop twining system, a mechanical targeted fresh market apple harvesting system, and a robotic bin handling system for apple harvesting. He has published more than 15 journal papers and presented at several international meetings.

In addition to mentoring graduate students and scholars and building relationships within the University, He will conduct research on mechanization in specialty-crop production to help Pennsylvania's growers. His home base will be Penn State's Fruit Research and Extension Center in Biglerville.

According to Heinemann, Choi and He will work closely with the state's growers to develop automation and artificial intelligence technologies aimed at providing practical solutions for labor shortages and safety issues.

An industry professional eager to work with the duo is Bruce Hollabaugh of Hollabaugh Bros. Inc., a 500-acre, family-owned-and-operated, fruit and vegetable farm and direct marketing operation in Biglerville. Hollabaugh also serves as chairman of the research committee for the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania, an organization that supports research for the betterment of the industry.

"There is a significant movement in the industry for increased uniformity in production, and how the use of robotic technology can increase efficiency and add value to crops and operations," he said. "We are appreciative of College of Agricultural Sciences Dean Rick Roush and Dr. Heinemann for providing us with not just one, but two individuals that are fantastic and have a complementary skill set. Penn State is positioning itself to make a significant impact in our industry -- with these two new faculty on board, we can explore new technologies in a way we've never done before."

More information about the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering is available online at

  • Dana Choi

    Daeun Choi, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Long He

    Long He, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering

    IMAGE: Penn State
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Last Updated September 29, 2017