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REU Site: An Interdisciplinary Research Experience for Undergraduates in Food Safety, Food Engineering, and Nutrition


This REU Site at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) will focus on training undergraduate students in food safety, food engineering, and nutrition. This area is of national importance and has direct implications on the safety and nutrition of our food supply. Therefore, the problems solved by the students would have a significant impact on the society. The intensive research experience provided by this program can greatly influence the future of young engineers and scientists. By performing research projects related to food safety, engineering, and nutrition, which affects the entire population of the U.S., we have the potential to advance the discipline while influencing young engineers in their career. The program will target both students with or without previous research experience. This focus combined with support from community college programs will impact students at critical career transition points. In addition to targeted research experience, students will be provided with a broader understanding of the field of food science (emphasis on food safety, food engineering, and nutrition), which can help them understand the opportunities available in this field. The students will undergo rigorous mentoring and professional development training which will help them in fine-tuning the skill sets required to become successful scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Food science is a STEM area which produces far fewer graduates than the available job opportunities. This REU program will inspire students to work in the food science area and prepare & inspire the next generation workforce to keep our food supply safe and nutritious.<br/><br/>The primary goals of the proposed NSF REU site are: 1) to provide hands on research experiences to undergraduate students in food safety, food engineering, and nutrition, 2) to provide exposure to these fields, 3) to systematically train the students in transforming basic research ideas into practical applications aimed at solving real world problems for improving the safety and nutrition of our food supply through interactive seminars and discussions, 4) to systematically mentor the undergraduate students to hone their research and professional skills through mentoring workshops, student presentations/discussions, interaction with graduate students, and K-12 outreach, 5) to expose the students to broader fields of food science to enhance their knowledge in this field (with special emphasis on food safety, food engineering, and nutrition) through seminars and tours, and 6) to train the students on research and professional ethics. Projects are offered in a broad range of topics including applications of novel food process engineering technologies (high pressure processing, pulsed light processing, and cold plasma) for ensuring food safety and nutritional quality, addressing special issues in food safety such as with low moisture foods, understanding physiological chemistry of plant bioactives in humans, modeling & simulation of food processing technologies, developing affordable nutrition through kinetic hydroponics, and repurposing of food ingredients for controlling pathogenic biofilms. Eight mentors from Illinois Institute of Technology and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will be mentoring ten undergraduate students for a ten week period during the summer.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Kathiravan Krishnamurthy
Illinois Institute of Technology
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