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Jeffery M. Catchmark

Jeffery M. Catchmark

Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Director of Graduate Studies

109 Agricultural Engineering Building
University Park , PA 16802
Office Phone: (814) 863-0414


Jeffrey M. Catchmark is an associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. His research focuses on sustainable biologically derived materials created using polysaccharides. He also studies the biosynthesis and assembly of cellulose. Applications of his research include sustainable packaging, construction materials, food products, and biomaterials for healthcare.  Jeffrey teaches courses in biological engineering design, structural systems in agriculture, and human behavior in management and technology which focuses on improved processes for ethical leadership and decision making. He is currently working on improved ethics engineering curricula and is involved with the Rock Ethics Institute Bioethics Program. He is the author or co-author of over 120 research publications and 8 patents. He received his B.S. from Penn State University and a Ph.D. from Lehigh University. 

Rock Fellowship Project Description

Toward Improved Ethical Leadership and Decision Making: An integrated approach involving education, research and policymaking

Dr. Catchmark has developed a strong interest in ethical leadership and decision-making (ELDM) which continues to be a key issue in our society. ELDM is needed to address critical social and sociotechnological problems ranging from climate change to global conflict. Our modern world brings new issues such as technological complexity, cultural diversity, and rapid change beyond our society’s ability to respond. Most importantly, unethical decision-making today in particular areas could have unprecedented long-term negative consequences for our civilization.

The roots of unethical behavior remain elusive due to the complex nature of human behavior. Many personal and social factors influence an individual’s decision-making process. With so many factors in play, effective solutions, especially those capable of realizing positive short-term change, are difficult to identify and implement. Consistent with the complexity of this situation, no one solution can be credibly imagined and real change in ELDM will likely arise from interventions on many venues from new research to education to new management practices to public engagement to policy making.

As a Faculty Fellow of the Rock, Dr. Catchmark will work toward making measurable improvements in ELDM through efforts in ethics education, ELDM research, and ELDM policymaking. In the area of ethics education, through funding from the College of Engineering, a new ethics curriculum will be developed and integrated into the Biological Engineering (BE) undergraduate program. The objective is to provide a much deeper experience which coherently spans the 4 semesters of the BE students’ junior and senior years. Content areas may include the philosophy of ethics and perhaps epistemology with the goal of developing deeper analytical and critical thinking; moral and behavioral psychology as it shapes the perception and application of ethics; applied ethics, specifically relating to contextual questions relevant to the biological engineer; and experiences which allow students to apply what they have learned to real world problems. ELDM research will focus on the application of behavioral psychology to the development of processes for ethical leadership and decision-making. Specifically, process leader models managing and driving decision making through a defined organizational and procedural methodology that addresses issues of voice, diversity, personality, moral disengagement, groupthink, and other factors will be explored. The goal is to create an ethical decision making framework that can be broadly implemented in a variety of industrial, government and university settings via policy.