College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Iowa State bids farewell to ISU ABE professor of 50 years

Agricultural and biosystems engineering professor announces his departure from Iowa State University (ISU) after outstanding career

After 50 years at ISU, University Professor Carl Bern has announced his retirement. His research focused on storage, preservation and applications of grains and oilseeds. With projects in Honduras, Tanzania, Uganda and India, Bern’s work explores appropriate storage containers for farmers and designs for sealing procedures for hemetic structures on subsistence farms.

Bern received his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in agricultural engineering from the University of Nebraska and his doctoral degree in agricultural engineering from ISU. Besides his research, Bern teaches courses on grain/oilseed preservation, handling and processing along with electric power/electronics applications.  

From the STORIES article “50 Years Powering Student Success:”

Over the past 50 years, Bern, a University Professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, has seen immense changes in technological innovation. He explains the “founding fathers” of agricultural engineering created four sub-disciplines reflecting engineering needs in agriculture: soil and water, power and machinery, structures and environment, and electric power and grain preservation.

Between 1920-1970 almost all farms in the United States became connected to line power, and agricultural engineers were a key part of this effort.

Carl Bern <i>Courtesy ISU Special Collections and University Archives</i>
Carl Bern
Courtesy ISU Special Collections and University Archives

“Electric power on farms transformed the life of farm families. They were no longer limited to sunlight hours or candles and lanterns. It impacted their home life, too. It’s the pits to have to do homework by candlelight,” Bern says.

The first use of electric motors on the farm was usually to power fans and conveyors for grain preservation, according to Bern. Grain preservation became his primary research focus, and he taught many courses and mentored several students researching the topic.

ISU ABE will host a retirement celebration in honor of Carl Bern on Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Sukup Atrium on ISU’s campus. An RSVP lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m. followed by a non-RSVP program and reception time. RSVP by June 19 to Sylvia Anderson at, or call 515-294-1434.


“50 Years Powering Student Success”

Carl Bern – Thankful for new Ag and Biosystems building