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The 1978 film Attack of the Killer Tomatoes opens with a fresh tomato coming to life and rolling toward the lady of the house as she does housework. In subsequent scenes, overgrown tomatoes gurgle, grunt, fly, and fling themselves at moving cars. A bioengineer’s dream come true . . . or his worst nightmare? Hard to say. But if you pursue a career in agricultural/biological engineering and bioengineering, you may well be involved in developing tools that make it easier—and safer—to produce and distribute food of the highest quality, the biggest and the best there is. Agricultural/biological engineering and bioengineering are swiftly evolving fields that integrate the principles of biological and physical sciences and use them to solve agricultural and environmental problems. Engineers in these fields design systems and equipment that increase agricultural productivity and food safety. They also manage and conserve soil, water, air, energy, and other agricultural resources.

As an agricultural/biological engineering or bioengineering major, you’ll learn the skills of engineering as they relate to agriculture, food production, and resource conservation. For example, as a bioengineer, your interests might lie in working to create a breed of fatter, tastier tomatoes (non-attacking variety) or speeding up the fermentation of grape juice into wine.

These majors are not for the fainthearted; you’ll take advanced and difficult courses in many different subjects, including math, physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering. Laboratory work and computer science will also be big components of your studies. (A personal computer should be at the top of your list of Things To Buy For College.)

Students who graduate in these highly specialized fields often choose to continue their studies in graduate or medical school. Others go on immediately into the workforce and find that they are highly prized by government agencies, consulting firms, and monolithic corporations such as International Paper, Tyson Foods, Archer Daniels Midland, and Haliburton.


  • Animal Nutrition

  • Biology

  • Bioprocess and Biological Systems

  • Calculus and Analytic Geometry

  • Computer Science

  • Construction Technology

  • Differential Equations

  • Genetics

  • Grain Drying, Handling, and Storage

  • Hydraulics

  • Landscape Irrigation

  • Mechanics of Solids

  • Microbiology

  • Organic Chemistry

  • Physics

  • Statics and Dynamics


You don’t need to be a whiz in engineering, agriculture, or biology in order to pursue these majors, but having an enduring love of math and the physical sciences will help immensely. Take all the math, physics, biology, and chemistry courses that your high school offers. Experience with computers and computer programming will also prove valuable. If your high school offers agriculture courses, you’ll obviously want to take those, too. Any extra knowledge of the field you acquire before college will only help you. If you know where you want to apply, consider contacting the university for information on their agricultural and biological engineering programs; this way you can choose high school courses that will satisfy admission requirements and prepare you for the workload ahead.