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Two drainage professors receive major ASABE awards

September 14, 2020  By Drainage Contractor

2020 ASABE award winners (from left): Paul Davidson, Vijay Singh, Richard Cooke, Prasanta Kalita, and Laura Christianson. Photo courtesy of University of Illinois ACES.

Five University of Illinois faculty members received major awards at the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) 2020 annual international meeting. Among them, two faculty members are well known for their contributions to agricultural drainage.

Richard Cooke and Laura Christianson, part of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES), both received separate awards for their contributions.

Illinois recipients also include Paul Davidson, Vijay Singh, and Prasanta Kalita, who work in the department of agricultural and biological engineering (ABE) in the College of ACES and The Grainger College of Engineering.

“That number of major award recipients from one institution is very impressive and one of the best in recent years. I’m very proud of our faculty and they definitely deserve this recognition,” says Ronaldo Maghirang, ABE department head.


Kim Kidwell, dean of the College of ACES, adds, “This is fabulous news and I’m excited to see so many of our excellent researchers recognized for their outstanding achievements. The breadth and scope of their activities show how ACES faculty contribute to improving lives in Illinois and around the world.”

Richard Cooke

Cooke received the G.B. Gunlogson Countryside Engineering Award for outstanding contributions nationally and internationally in enhancing the performance, water quality, and monitoring of drainage and rainfall harvesting systems. He is a professor and drainage extension specialist in the Department of ABE.

He serves as section leader for soil and water engineering and he teaches courses in drainage and water management, land and water management systems, drainage design and layout, and nonpoint source pollution processes. He is also an adjunct professor in agricultural engineering at Njala University in Sierra Leone.

He conducts research on sustainable lowland development for rice production, and is involved in capacity building through workshops in GIS applications in water resources engineering, nonpoint source pollution modeling, and research methodology.

Cooke is author or coauthor of more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and other publications and has created more than 10 web-accessible applications.

Laura Christianson

Christianson received the Larry W. Turner Young Extension Professional Award for outstanding contributions in significantly advancing the design and implementation of denitrifying bioreactors through her applied research and outreach program. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I.

Christianson established the Illinois Drainage Research and Outreach Program (I-DROP) focusing on agricultural drainage and conservation practices. Christianson’s outreach activities convey new and practical information about how to design and manage conservation practices like denitrifying bioreactors, saturated buffers, controlled drainage, and cover crops and how these practices reduce water pollution.

This public engagement ties closely to her applied research, and involves unique groups of stakeholders ranging from producers, drainage contractors, and crop advisors to state and federal agency administrators.

Christianson is author or coauthor of 49 peer-reviewed articles, one published database, one book chapter, and more than 20 other publications, reports, and extension-style articles.

Read more about the other award winners on The University of Illinois ACES page.

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