Steven Hall: PhD, Aquacultural Engineering (Biological and Agricultural Engineer, Licensed Mechanical Engineer)
- Graduated from the University of Buffalo in Mechanical Engineering,
- Licensed engineer (NY and LA)
- Ph.D. from Cornell University in Agricultural Engineering;
- Postdoc at McGill (Sustainable Agriculture)
- Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, LSU and NCSU (2000 - present)
- Director, Marine Aquaculture Research Center (2016 – present)
- Editor in Chief, Journal of Aquacultural Engineering (starting August 2017)
I went to school at SUNY Buffalo (UB) and got a degree in Mechanical Engineering. I had interest in things spiritual, but did not have a personal relationship with Jesus. I worked for about 3 years in a servohydraulics company, then went back to school at UC Davis. During my masters, I responded to a poster with the letters “E.N.G.” at the top; below was stated “Engineers Need God, call Pete for a Bible study”. I called the number and Pete discipled me to a knowledge of the Lord.
I moved to Cornell for the PhD and there a poster read “Christian? Graduate Student? Call Jeremy”. This was the beginning of a period of growth in my walk with the Lord. Through various challenges and over time, the Lord has grown me and used me in various places. One of the questions a Christian graduate student colleague asked was about calling. What is my calling? This was a challenging question, as it was quite different from “what do you want to do when you grow up”?
I asked myself this question, prayed for guidance and slowly learned to, as Blackaby suggests, join God in what He is doing. God is indeed at work in the world and the university, and there are many Christian colleagues (and seekers) in the sciences and engineering. During my postdoc at McGill University in Montreal, I was challenged further by colleagues and campus ministers, but also by the hunger of people living in a post-Christian society. Young people there, with few active churches, still were drawn to a Bible study we led. The Lord miraculously provided French Bibles; my faith and that of others grew during this period. Meantime, I was considering my calling, finding ways to integrate my knowledge of agriculture, sustainability, environmental and social issues, with God’s calling on my life. I responded to opportunities to serve for a month in Africa; and to a chance to teach at a Christian Environmental Studies Center (can such a thing exist?) during this period. At this center, Au Sable Institute, I met my wife, and my life was further blessed.
Through it all, the Lord was growing me. He tried to get me to move south but I threw away the job posting when I realized this fascinating job in aquacultural engineering was in Louisiana. His patience and perseverance opened the slot again a year later, and two non-Christians were involved in getting me to consider the position, which I eventually accepted.
I served at LSU in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering for almost 17 years, was married and had children; helped start and lead the Christian Faculty Staff Network there and experienced many joys as well as challenges and sorrows. Thankfully, the Lord has been with me through it all. I like to believe I have contributed in some small way to our field, aquacultural engineering, as well as to broader areas of education, research and service. But the Lord has bigger ideas.
There have been side-effects that were unexpected. For example, I keep in touch with or hear from graduates, including engineers, professors, medical doctors, patent lawyers and other professionals who are doing great work in their fields, even if they do not continue in the aquacultural engineering subfield. One medical doctor has invented a number of new devices for surgery. A coastal engineer has done many projects on the Gulf Coast, but also all over the world, protecting fragile coasts in sustainable ways. A professor has students of her own. An entrepreneur has started two companies and is selling products and services that improve the economy and environment. An African student is head of his department at a small American school; while an American student has spent time rebuilding infrastructure in the Middle East and in Asia after catastrophic events. Each of these is on their own walk, some devout Christians, others seekers or even resisting the Lord. Regardless, He is Lord of all, and I praise Him for the ways He has used me and is using many others. The Lord has used the field of aquacultural engineering and the venue of the University, as well as our home and other locations around the world, to do His work.
Aquaculture, the culture of aquatic species such as fish, crustaceans and aquatic plants, is a growing field and is needed to feed the world in a sustainable way. This has become a significant part of my calling and the various studies we – students and colleagues - are doing. But relationships as well as wisdom are in many ways even more important that technical advances. Loving my wife and children; mentoring younger faculty and graduate students, collaborating with a wide variety of people and working in various countries around the world each call me to reach out with compassion and wisdom.
As graduate chair for the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at LSU, I was able to impact hundreds of students over several years, including work as chair or on the committee of over 50 graduate students. The Lord sent students from dozens of countries and allowed us to minister to them in our home, where we have hosted hundreds of students and professionals of all ages over the years. Working with students individually and in small groups allowed me to get to know them, and to hear their challenges and joys.
More recently, the Lord opened doors to move to the east coast, where work at North Carolina is allowing our group to address challenges unique in marine aquaculture. Access to excellent coastal facilities and collaborations between governmental, NGO (secular and Christian); and private groups are opening doors in the US and around the world. One recent project focuses on helping coastal residents build more sustainable lives using aquaculture, and producing healthy food on the coast. Another recent project focused on enhancing water quality, agricultural and aquacultural productivity in Honduras. Another project in planning focuses on enhancing aquaculture in Peru, enabling local growers there to provide high quality protein for local communities and high value fish for export.
In the end, an eternal perspective helps in the drive to enhance sustainability, but reminds me that I am merely made of dust, so doing what I can today, as unto the Lord, is the best I can do. I am deeply satisfied with working with young people and the hope that both they and what they do will outlast me and contribute to stewarding God’s people and world. I am humbled by what students and colleagues have done and look forward to seeing what else the Lord will do through me and through the many I have had a chance to work with.
Is the Lord calling you? How will you respond?