College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Mosher studies human impact on engineering designs in food and agricultural systems

While Gretchen Mosher is a newly appointed tenure track assistant professor in agriculture and biosystems engineering, Gretchen Moshershe is not unfamiliar with life at Iowa State. Having completed every level of her education at Iowa State, Mosher is happy to find a permanent home in the College of Engineering and is eager to continue her research, drawing a connection between human influences and engineering processes.

Mosher began her education at Iowa State, earning a bachelors degree in food science and going on to work in a meat lab on campus after graduation. In this position, she coordinated testing and evaluations of meat using human testers.   While serving in this position full-time, Mosher began working toward a master’s degree in family and consumer science education.

Upon completing her master’s degree, Mosher began working for the College of Human Sciences, assisting in areas of student advising, recruitment, curriculum development, and teaching courses as needed. After three years, she was given the opportunity to earn a doctorate through the agriculture and biosystems engineering program. Mosher accepted the offer and began while working with Charles Hurburgh, professor of agriculture and biosystems engineering, studying food handlers that worked with grain.

“I had never really planned to earn my advanced degrees, I was simply in the right place at the right time,” Mosher explains. “Over time I’ve been offered many opportunities that I didn’t always think I could do, but I took a risk and it has paid off.”

Mosher completed her doctorate in 2011 and remained in the agriculture and biosystems engineering department serving in various capacities until June 2012, when she was offered a new position within the department. Now serving as a tenure track assistant professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, Mosher is busy teaching courses and performing research.

Currently, Mosher is teaching Technology Systems Management 415 and 416, part I and part II of the technology capstone course. The courses allow students to take knowledge gained from their course work and apply it to a real world situation, working on a problem for an actual company and presenting a solution at the end of the semester. She also teaches Technology Systems Management 310, total quality improvement, an introduction to continuous improvement tools and methods.

“I really enjoy working with students and the stimulation of the research community,” she explains. “Working with many intelligent people who are all working on important issues is exciting for me.”

Along with her teaching assignments, Mosher has continued her research in agriculture and food systems, primarily looking at the safety of these systems and how human decision making influences the safety, product quality, and other elements of these processes. She also spends time researching the interaction of grain handling quality processes with other businesses and hopes to find methods to optimize them.

In addition, Mosher studies the introduction of complicated topics to adult learners. Ultimately, her goal is to find best methods for motivating and engaging these learners to make their experiences most effective.

In the future, Mosher plans to continue this research, but feels that expanding her focus would be beneficial.

“Agriculture and food systems are my focus now, but I think it would be great to not just limit myself to those areas in the future,” she says. “There are many places where human actions greatly impact operations, so looking at that interaction in other areas and methods of continuous improvement is a great interest of mine.”

When she’s not teaching or performing research, Mosher enjoys gardening, cooking, reading, and spending time with her husband and son.

As Mosher’s early education did not come through the College of Engineering, she does not consider herself to be an engineer first.  She does however find great value in the field of engineering and has advice for her engineering students.

“I’m not an engineer, but I really appreciate engineering,” says Mosher. “I tend to question how humans fit into any engineering equation and I would advise all engineering students to consider the impact humans will have on their designs. It’s important for engineers to think about how human factors will influence certain parts of a design that will in turn affect other parts. Doing so will help them to become better engineers.”