A native of Overland Park, KS and Kansas State University student, Rachel Chall will be working with Drs. Nagaraja and Bai on whole genome sequencing-based identification and comparative analysis of major and putative virulence genes of the “top six” non-0157 shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli of cattle origin. Rachel states, “I am interested in pursuing a concurrent DVM/PhD in pathobiology, preharvest food safety. I am interested in ruminant microbiome manipulation. I would like to pursue research into the effects of subtheraputic use of antimicrobials for use of growth promotion on antimicrobial resistance and possible alternatives.”
Minh Duong, student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and native of Centreville, Virginia, is collaborating with Dr. Renee Boyer on assessment of consumer behavior and knowledge of beef safety through observational studies. Minh states, “my love for food safety stemmed from taking food microbiology class my sophomore year. Before taking this class, I had a peaked interest with microbial and infectious diseases but this class provided me with the opportunity to apply these interests to the real world. But the idea that something as small as microorganisms could cause huge problems intrigued me. So around this time I got involved in foodborne illness as well, specifically in Salmonella spp. Since then my passion for food safety has grown because of my desire to keep my community safe from foodborne illnesses. I am excited to be working on this project knowing that it will lead to tremendous progress in the food safety community and a healthier community.”
A native of Birmingham, AL and Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University student, Antionette Fowlkes will be working with Drs. Sara Gragg and Randy Phebus on creation of supplementary educational materials to accompany the STEC CAP modules. Antionette states, “My interest in Food Safety consist of learning how to protect consumers from the dangers of different bacteria that grow in foods. I would like to apply what I have learned from my environmental health course and merge the two to ensure that the food that is being grown for consumers is safe.”
Justin Ludwig, student at the Kansas State University, is interning for Drs. Nagaraja and Bai to develop and validate reagents and assays for STEC-8; ii) design valid sampling protocols for cattle and beef processing scenarios; iii) optimize and implement rapid, multi-agent detection technologies for pre-harvest, post-harvest and consumer substrates. Justin states, “My interest in food safety is in relation to the One Health Initiative. Specifically, the large role food safety will have on human, animal, and environmental health.” Justin’s hometown is Lake Zurich, Illinois.
Katy Jo Nickelson
Katy Jo Nickelson, student at Texas A&M University and native of Fort Worth, TX, is collaborating with Dr. Matt Taylor on validating a lactic acid intervention for reducing STEC surrogates on marinated blade tenderized beef cutlets in a FSIS-inspected small processor. Katy states, “I am interested in Food Safety because it allows me to combine many different areas of interest that I enjoy (Food Science, Meat Science, and Microbiology). I hope to focus more on food policy and regulation in the future. I think that by improving regulatory practices in the industry we will be able to better serve the growing global population safely and efficiently.”
Melissa Poet, Kansas State University, will be working with Dr. Jason Ellis on STEC food safety project based curriculum course for piloting, tracking and editing. She states, “As an agricultural education major, I feel it is important to have a well rounded knowledge of all agriculture subjects. Food safety is one of the subjects that I would like to gain more knowledge and this opportunity with STEC CAP give me that opportunity.” Melissa is a native of Flagler, CO.
Nathan Rice will be working with Dr. Jeyam Subbiah on water and energy use in beef packing plants. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln student and Morrill, NE native states, “Food safety is a huge issue for food manufacturers today. One mishap and they could endanger the lives of countless civilians and be required to recall thousands of contaminated products. I would like to use my engineering background to help ensure that events like these don’t happen. In particular, I would like to develop new techniques for killing bacteria. This would allow for longer shelf lives, which would in turn allow for less food spoilage.”
A native of San Antonio, TX, Texas A&M University student Ashley Seidenberger will be working with Dr. Gary Acuff on protecting consumers of beef from Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli. Ashley states, “I am interested in improving my communication skills while spreading knowledge of food safety to students of Texas A&M University. The agriculture industry needs help spreading knowledge about products, production, and food safety; I feel that I am able to help the industry through this internship and better educate my self and others about food safety.”
Shalini Shankar, student at the University of California Davis, is interning for Dr. Christine Bruhn researching the exploration of barriers to industry usage of safety enhancing technology - irradiation. Shalini states, “As an undergraduate student, the course Food Safety, Quality and Regulations, which I took in my senior year, greatly piqued my interest in Food Safety and was instrumental in helping me decide to pursue a career in this field. With the advancement of science & technology and development of new processing methods, it is equally important to understand their implications in food safety and the barriers in their applicability in the food industry and hence, I think this project is an excellent initiative.”
Shalini continued, “After attaining my graduate degree, I intend on working as a Food Safety and Regulatory Professional and believe that this internship would be the perfect stepping stone in that direction.” Shalini’s hometown is Mumbai, India.
Alexandria (Lexi) Trumbley, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, will be working with Jill Hochstein as the STEC CAP web content developer and social media intern. She states, “I am a web/graphic designer that has worked in designing for the food industry before, but in a very different way. I am excited to gain new experience in this internship program, while also delving in deeper with food safety.” Lexi is a native of Lincoln, Nebraska.
Dustin Therrien, Texas A&M University, will be working with Dr. T. Matt Taylor on genome sequencing of non-pathogenic E. coli approved by FSIS as pathogen surrogates. He states, “Recent reports from the Center of Disease Control & Prevention indicate that over the last year that E. coli was responsible for ~ 96,000 illnesses of which resulted in 3,000 hospitalizations and 32 deaths in the United States. This has been estimated to cost around $400 million in annual healthcare expenses, and loses. With beef being a major component of the average U.S. diet it is imperative to develop better means of detection, and methods of prevention in order to protect the general public and prevent said financial loses. Additionally, this internship will provide experience working with unfamiliar techniques, and will offer knowledge pertaining to public health. All of which will aid in the eventual pursuit of obtaining a career in a field related to public health and control of preventing infectious outbreaks.” Dustin is a native of Kirbyville, TX.
Bennett Uhl will be working with Drs. Sara Gragg and Randy Phebus on bench top modeling to elucidate the attachment rates of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli (STEC) to pre-chill and post-chill beef carcass. The Kansas State University student and Overland Park, KS native states, “The food industry is truly unique because that it has an effect on every person’s life in some way. The opportunity to be a part of keeping all of the parts in motion in the process from field to fork safe would be a rewarding process.”
Taylor Whited, student at the University of California Davis and native of Sacramento, California, is collaborating with Dr. Christine Bruhn on the assessment of STEC food safety curriculum targeting high school health/food teachers. Taylor states, “Consuming, preparing and preserving safe foods is integral to maintaining the health of the community; this project targets the future generations to help give them the knowledge and the skills to keep their food safe and increase the health of their individual communities.”