As the new chair of Washington State University’s Department of Biological Systems Engineering, Manuel Garcia-Pérez is excited to lead faculty and students as they make discoveries for a healthy environment, renewable energy, productive and sustainable agriculture, and safe and nutritious foods.
“I am a big believer in the magic of committed individuals and teams,” said Garcia Pérez, a BSE professor since 2013.
Garcia-Pérez takes over as chair of BSE from Juming Tang, who has been chair for four years, on Nov. 1.
The native of Cuba came to WSU after earning degrees in Cuba and Canada, then completing post-doctoral fellowships in the state of Georgia, and in Australia.
“WSU is my first job,” he said. “And I’ve made WSU my home.”
Garcia-Pérez splits his research between Pullman and the WSU Tri-Cities campus. He researches biomass, or materials produced by living organisms, and works with high-temperature processes.
“Humans have evolved with fire,” he said. “But we don’t know enough about the reactions that happen with fire. We’re working to see if the phenomenon that propelled humans from primitives to modern society can help solve things like climate change, nutrients run-off from dairy operations, production of jet bio-fuels, and other contemporary problems.”
BSE faculty perform research in four primary areas: agricultural automation engineering; bioenergy and bioproducts engineering; food engineering; and land, air, water resources, and environmental engineering.
“I am confident that Manuel has the skills needed to lead BSE, which does very impactful cutting-edge research,” said André-Denis Wright, dean of WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS), parent college to BSE.
As chair, Garcia-Pérez wants to increase the department’s positive impacts on Washington state, as well as the nation and the world, while increasing its relevance to citizens. He also seeks to grow departmental resources, during a time when a number of faculty members are approaching retirement.
“There’s a generational transition coming, and we need to look to the future,” Garcia-Pérez said. “I will work with the entire faculty to do this, while maintaining our world-class teaching, research, and outreach programs, as well as the reputation our department has in all four areas.”
“As a professor, my job has been to encourage my students to explore their inner potential,” he added. “As department chair, I will listen carefully and learn from all my colleagues. Our faculty are all leaders in their field, and BSE is a highly successful unit. There are challenges and also many opportunities ahead of us.”
For Garcia-Pérez, planning for the future is both a necessary and a stimulating task.
“I love to think about my field of biomass research, and where it will be in 20 years,” he said. “I look forward to doing that for this department, to keep it growing and doing vital research that helps people around the world.”