Biosystems engineer recognized for “groundbreaking” dissertation
The research done by Dr. Zhiwei (Bob) Zeng on agricultural machinery engineering has earned him the University of Manitoba Distinguished Dissertation Award in the applied sciences category.
The Faculty of Graduate Studies hands out five dissertation awards annually, in the categories of applied sciences, humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and health sciences, to recognize a groundbreaking piece of original work. Bob’s work is literally about “groundbreaking”, as his research measured and modelled soil tillage and explored how farm machinery design might be improved.
“My dissertation embraced a broad topic of soil-tool-residue interactions, which are at the center of many agricultural field operations. I investigated soil-tool-residue interaction mechanisms in tillage and seeding using a combination of multiscale experimentation and physical systems modeling based on the discrete element method (DEM),” said Bob.
His nominators noted that “his work in the area of agricultural equipment design is of great importance to the agricultural mechanization sector in Manitoba and beyond”.
Bob hopes his work will advance the science of soil dynamics and contribute to the engineering knowledge required to develop high-performance agricultural machinery that consumes minimal tractor power and creates optimal field conditions for crop growth, ultimately benefiting farmers in producing high-quality and high-yielding crops.
On his reaction to winning the award, Bob had this to say: “I am humbled and extremely thankful. I would like to thank my family, friends, and professors for their support and encouragement in many different forms. In particular, it would be impossible to achieve this without the great mentorship and support from my advisor, Professor Ying Chen.”
Bob is currently continuing and expanding his Ph.D. research as a postdoctoral fellow, and the theme of breaking ground carries through to his new line of inquiry.
“One of my recent projects was aimed at developing techniques to decode seed germination and emergence from an engineering perspective. A seed has to break through the soil, oftentimes very compacted, to emerge from the ground as a plant. I am investigating the biomechanical power and associated phenomena of the ‘groundbreaking’ of a seed.”
“Going forward, I look forward to launching my academic career at an appropriate time, using skills I gained at the University of Manitoba to further advance the field of agricultural machinery and more importantly train the next generation of agricultural engineers,” he said.
Bob has been the recipient of several prestigious awards including the University of Manitoba Graduate Fellowship, Duff Roblin Fellowship from the Government of Manitoba, Mitacs Globalink Graduate Fellowship, and many other accolades throughout his doctoral studies.