Maier picked to lead KSU's grain science department

by Arvin Donley
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Dirk Maier, professor and associate head of the Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, has been named head of Kansas State University’s (KSU) Department of Grain Science and Industry. Maier will begin his duties at KSU on April 1.

KSU has been searching for a permanent department head since last February, when Virgil Smail announced that he was stepping down after less than three years in the position to take a job in the private sector. Richard "Dick" Hahn came out of retirement to serve as the interim department head while the university conducted its search for a permanent replacement. Hahn had previously served as head of the grain science department from 1992-96.

Maier told World Grain that he is excited about joining a department that has rebounded nicely during the last several years after seeing its enrollment and faculty numbers decline significantly earlier in the decade.

"The administration remains committed to this rebuilding effort, so I consider this opportunity perfect timing to come on board and help to continue moving the department on its forward path," Maier said.

Fred Cholick, KSU dean of agriculture and director of KSU Research and Extension, said Maier comes to the university with outstanding credentials. Maier earned bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D degrees in agricultural engineering from Michigan State University, and has been a professor and extension agricultural engineer at Purdue since 1991, and associate department head since 2005.

"We are so pleased to have someone of Dirk Maier’s caliber joining us to take the lead in educating our students to take on the challenges and opportunities in the industry and to help guide research and extension that will benefit Kansas and U.S. grain producers." Cholick said.

Maier’s research at Purdue has focused on engineered technologies for the protection of stored products and the delivery of identity-preserved, traceable and biosecure quality grains for the food, industrials, biofuels and feed processing industries.

During his time at Purdue, located in West Lafayette, Indiana, U.S., Maier secured more than $9 million in research, technology transfer and extension education grants and received numerous awards, including the 2007 The Andersons/NC-213 Cereals and Oilseeds Award of Excellence in Research.

"Dirk has an outstanding record of providing scientific information to his colleagues and to industry," Cholick said.

In addition to his research, Maier has demonstrated a commitment to extension work, Cholick said. He was the co-founder of the Purdue Grain Quality Team, which offers free grain composition analysis to Indiana producers, elevators and processors. He also was a key initiator of the Purdue Post-Harvest Education and Research Center.

Maier will lead a department that is known worldwide for its baking, milling, feed production and grain handling educational programs. KSU is the only university in the United

States (U.S.) that offers college degrees in baking, feed and milling science and management. It is also expanding its reach into biorefinery/biofuels operations management.

The department also has a strong international program focused on educating international consumers of Kansas and U.S. cereal products on their utilization and value. Cholick said that under Maier’s leadership, the department intends to expand its outreach effort through distance education.

Maier currently serves as the director of the Grain Elevator and Processing Society (GEAPS)-Purdue Grain and Biorefinery Operations Distance Education Program.

Maier said his top priority will be increasing student enrollment in both undergraduate and graduate programs as well as increasing the number of faculty members in the department.

"We will initiate a national search to fill one or two new faculty positions during the coming year, which will allow us to further rebuild our cereal chemistry and technology group and take advantage of research funding opportunities to address major health and nutrition issues that can be solved through improved grain-based foods and ingredients," Maier said.