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Multi-Sector Training of Doctoral Canidates in Food Safety Microbiology


The goal of the program is to train two doctoral students in food science/microbiology leveraging Rutger's braod food safety expertise with government (FDA) and industry (Food Processors Association). The program fills the TESA in the area of microbial food safety. The Fellows rotate through the laboratories of PI conducting research in the area of microbial food safety and are exposed to research including novel methods of Listeria control, role of host/food interactions in microbial pathogenesis, risk assessment, and controlled release antimicrobials while they take courses in their first year. During the Spring Break, the USDA Fellows visit the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and the Food Products Association in Washington, DC, to learn regulatory issues, industrial perspectives, and how they merge to form a science-based policy. Fellows participate in a short term assignment at FDA, FPA, or our CDC-registered Select Agent Laboratory to gain experiential knowledge about food safety, policy development, industrial research issues, or working with select agents. During years two and three, Fellows conduct intensive research in food safety at Rutgers with FDA and FPA mentors serving as external members of their dissertation committees. The above program provides the Fellows with laboratory skills, communication skills, and fosters independent thinking. Their unique training in food safety microbiology prepares the Fellows for leadership positions where they will be able improve the pipeline of students into industrial, government or academic careers in food safety. Specifically, the Fellows will be trained experts in microbial food safety and meet the need for the identified TESA.

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Contamination of the food supply with human pathogens results in human illness and death. There is a critical shortage of food scientists trained in food safety microbiology. This project trains to Ph.D candidates in food science/microbiology to address the shoratge of trained experts in the area of microbial food safety.

APPROACH: During their first academic year, USDA Food Safety Fellows rotate through four food safety laboratories in the Food Science Department and complete most of their courses. During the initial year, Fellows learn specialized and generic microbiological skills through mini-projects which focus on Predictive Microbiology and Risk Analysis; E. coli O157:H7 Spatial Location and Destruction; Controlled Release of Antimicrobials; and Novel Mechanisms of Listeria control. By the end of the first year, Fellows have a full array of microbiology skills, appreciate different approaches to microbial food safety, and have refined their interests in a dissertation topic. During the Spring Break, the Fellows travel to Washington, DC, spending a week at the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and at the Food Products Association. They learn regulatory issues, industrial perspectives, how they merge to form a science-based policy, and the role that new knowledge supplied by their doctoral research plays in the larger food safety arena. The PIs know personally minority scientists in both organizations and arrange dinners and other social time so that the Fellows can build an extended support network. Rutgers Fellows participate in at least one Short Term Assignment (SRA) at FDA, or FPA, relating to development of food safety policy or industrial research issues, or at Rutgers experiencing the real world of research in a highly regulated select agent laboratory. This imparts further experiential knowledge that integrates theory and practice. During their second and third academic years, Fellows conduct intensive research in food safety under the supervision of Rutgers faculty with FDA and FPA scientists advising as external members of their dissertation committees. Through their research and experience, these Fellows will advance USDA Strategic Goal 3 Enhance Protection and Safety of the Nations Agricultural and Food Supply. Fellows completing the program are ready for post-doctoral training or entry into industry or government positions. Given the broad expertise of Fellows completing the program they will readily fit into postions that require microbial food safety food science knowledge. Performance of the program is based on a metric using questionaires and interviews.
PROGRESS: 2006/11 TO 2007/11
Announcements and advertisements for the Fellowships were widely circulated via listserves to all members of the Institute of Food Technologists and American Society for Microbiology Food Microbiology Divisions, e-mails followed up by letters to all 1890 institutions, ads in Microbe (magazine of the American Society for Microbiology) and Food Technology (IFT's magazine), and on the department's web page. One candidate has been successfully recruited thus far. A student who obtained her M.S. at Tuskegee, she has high GPA, high GRE, and star potential. We declined applications from several less-qualified students, feeling that it would be inappropriate to settle for holders of these fellowships. The search for a second candidate continues. PRODUCTS: One student has been placed on stipend. One laboratory rotation has been completed. A mentoring relationship has been developed. OUTCOMES: One student has been successfully recruited and is becoming acquainted with the research culture of a large university by virtue of having completed her first laboratory rotation. DISSEMINATION ACTIVITIES: Activities to to publicize the program will continue until a successful candidate is identified. The methods that were used to recruit the first fellow will be continued, augmented by the word-of-mouth efforts of the first fellow to recruit a second one. FUTURE INITIATIVES: In addition to continued recruitment efforts, the Fellow will rotate through another three laboratories. During the summer, she will rotate through a government and industrial research facility.
IMPACT: 2006/11 TO 2007/11
Undergraduate students are gaining altered prospectives from seeing an African-American woman in a leadership and lecturing role. Other courses and discussions are benefiting by having the outside view from another cultural community.

Matthews, Karl; Montville, Thomas
Rutgers University
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