Lalit Verma, head of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering for more than 23 years, retires July 31.
Lalit Verma, professor and department head of biological and agricultural engineering for the U of A System since 2000, will retire July 31. His 23 years at the helm of the department have seen critical advancements in research and teaching programs.
“The most gratifying thing in my 23 years here has been creating and implementing the research, teaching and service programs for our citizens,” Verma said. “Recruiting young faculty and facilitating the growth of their individual programs while contributing to the departmental goals has been very rewarding.
“The support and invaluable contributions of our dedicated support staff and faculty have been the reasons for our sustained successes,” Verma said.
In retirement, Verma and his wife, Aruna, plan to spend time with their two grandchildren and take some overdue international trips.
The Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering includes research and extension programs of the U of A System Division of Agriculture and research and academic programs of the College of Engineering at the U of A.
A reception to celebrate Verma’s retirement will be held at 4:30 p.m. July 21 in Waldrip Hall of the Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences at the Milo J. Shult Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Fayetteville.
“Dr. Verma came at a crucial stage when emerging technologies were opening new avenues of research and development for agriculture, the environment, food and human health,” said Jean-François Meullenet, senior associate vice president-research for the Division of Agriculture and director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station. “Under his leadership, research in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering has reached exciting heights of achievement in all these fields that improve the state’s agricultural and food industries and made life better for all Arkansans.
“At the same time, Lalit has led the growth of an education program that is preparing students who, in turn, will be the next generation of scientists and teachers,” Meullenet said.
“Dr. Verma has served the ag engineering program for many years,” said Bob Scott, senior associate vice president-extension for the division. “His leadership will be missed.
“During his career, we have seen many changes in what it means to be an agricultural engineer from an extension standpoint as well as in the field,” Scott said. “Lalit has provided knowledge and guidance along the way. The Cooperative Extension Service thanks him for his support and service to the state.”
Kim Needy, professor and dean of the College of Engineering, said, “For 23 years, Lalit has been serving the University of Arkansas, 21 years as head of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and two years as interim dean of Bumpers College. It’s hard to imagine the campus without him. We will sorely miss our dear friend and colleague and wish him much happiness in his retirement.”
Research and Extension
Verma oversaw the advancement of biological research programs, including the design and implementation of the biomedical engineering program. Recruiting talented faculty and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration across multiple departments, including joint faculty appointments across departments and colleges at the U of A, he built a research program focused on advancing health technology.
At the same time, under Verma’s leadership, the department continued to focus and advance research and extension programs in the land-grant mission to support Arkansas’ agricultural communities and economy.
In particular, Verma said he is proud of faculty hires and program initiatives in sustainable engineering for water, food and energy systems.
Almost from the moment he moved into the department head’s office, Verma began working on the development and implementation of a biological engineering academic program with three concentrations. His efforts won approval for the new curricula from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and had the program up and running by his second year at the U of A.
As needs changed in Arkansas and the country, Verma redesigned the biological engineering program to focus on sustainable engineering for water, food and energy systems, paralleling the successful research strategy. He worked to get the degree program approved three times by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
From 2008 to 2010, he served as interim dean of the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences and as interim associate vice president for academic programs for the Division of Agriculture.
Base of Support
In 2002, Verma founded the Arkansas Academy of Biological and Agricultural Engineers, chartered with the approval of the Bumpers College and College of Engineering deans. All but one of the charter members were eminent graduates of the biological and agricultural engineering program who had graduated at least 10 years before being nominated to join the academy.
Each year, professionals who have distinguished themselves in the field of biological or agricultural engineering are inducted into the academy. The group’s purpose is to support and encourage the department’s academic and research programs.
“Our academy and alumni have been very supportive during the last 20-plus years,” Verma said.
Activities and Recognitions
Verma served as the president of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers during 2013-2014 and serves as the president of the ASABE Foundation. He was also the program director of the master’s degree program in biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering. Before coming to Arkansas, he was professor and head of the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
He is a fellow of numerous organizations, including ASABE, the International Academy of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the Institute of Biological Engineering and the Indian Society of Agricultural Engineers.
Verma is a past president of the Institute of Biological Engineering. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Biological Systems Engineering Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2014 for outstanding leadership and service to the profession. He was recognized by ASABE with the James R. and Karen A. Gilley Academic Leadership Award in 2014.
To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: aaes.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch and on Instagram at @ArkAgResearch. To learn about Extension Programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @AR_Extension and Instagram at @AR_Extension.
To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.
About the Division of Agriculture: The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system. The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses. The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.