J. Alex Thomasson

J. Alex Thomasson


  • Agriculture & Biological Engineering


  • Director
  • Department Head
  • Professor
  • Endowed Chair



Dr. Alex Thomasson is Director of Mississippi State University’s (MSU’s) Agricultural Autonomy Institute (AAI). He founded AAI with funds he received from the Hearin Foundation, a Mississippi charitable organization focused on economic development. Mississippi’s Institutes of Higher Learning approved AAI as a university-level institute at MSU in summer 2023. Thomasson, formerly a faculty member of MSU’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, rejoined as Department Head in 2020 after years as a Professor and Endowed Chair at Texas A&M University. He came back to MSU with a vision of creating a focus on agricultural autonomy – i.e., autonomous machines and systems for agriculture – by integrating the sophisticated and synergistic capabilities he saw in MSU’s academic departments in agriculture and engineering as well as its research centers and institutes. In 2020 he began putting together a working group that meets monthly and has ultimately grown to 40 members, who discuss collaborative research and funding opportunities in agricultural autonomy.

Dr. Thomasson started his career as a research engineer focused on sensors and control systems with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, working at the Cotton Ginning Research Unit Stoneville, Mississippi. He moved from there to MSU, teaching and conducting research in precision agriculture. He later moved to Texas A&M where he focused on teaching and research in sensors and control systems and precision agriculture, and he ultimately became Endowed Chairholder in Cotton Engineering, Ginning, and Mechanization. Over the years his research interests moved in the direction of autonomous systems, because he recognized the critical nature of agricultural autonomy in light of the diminishing availability of agricultural labor and the growing world population and demand for food and fiber.

Dr. Thomasson earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Engineering from Texas Tech University, a Master of Science in Agricultural Engineering from Louisiana State University, and a Ph.D. in Agricultural Engineering from University of Kentucky. Dr. Thomasson is also a registered Professional Engineer, and he is the President of the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) and a Fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE). He also serves on the Federal Communication Commission’s Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force, Accelerating Broadband

Deployment on Unserved Agricultural Lands Working Group. Dr. Thomasson also belongs to the Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the International Society of Precision Agriculture (ISPA), the International Society of Optics and Photonics (SPIE), the North American Plant Phenotyping Network (NAPPN), the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and Sigma Xi (The Scientific Research Honor Society).