The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Food Safety  and the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service have selected four Food Safety Fellows through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) program. The fellows are students currently working toward their doctoral degrees and have an interest in improving food safety and public health. 

During their fellowships, they will learn how to apply their scientific and technical knowledge to inform the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) decision making and improve the safety of the food supply. They will collaborate with FSIS scientists on projects related to the agency’s research priorities.

While the FSIS is not a research funding organization, it recognizes the importance of keeping abreast of the latest scientific endeavors as well as its role in promoting research in areas important to the FSIS mission. 

They have three top goals:

  1. Prevent foodborne illness and protect public health
  2. Modernize inspection systems, policies, and the use of scientific approaches
  3. Achieve operational excellence

“The fellowship program at FSIS is part of our vision to lead with science and to build relationships, by continually fostering our connections with academia,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Mindy Brashears.

The four fellows are:

Darwin Bandoy, University of California – Davis — Darwin will investigate the genes that drive infections from Salmonella Dublin, a bacterial disease that affects dairy cattle. Understanding how the disease spreads can help FSIS focus resources on pathogens of greatest concern.

Aaron Beczkiewicz, Ohio State University — Aaron will analyze data to help design microbial testing programs. He will develop risk factor models for Salmonella contamination using FSIS data for whole chicken carcasses.

Colette Nickodem, Texas A&M University — Colette’s project will examine bacteria-eating viruses as a potential strategy to control Salmonella in beef cattle. 

Ilya Slizovskiy, University of Minnesota — Ilya’s research seeks to identify genetic risk factors for antimicrobial resistance in disease-causing microorganisms.

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education is a U.S. Department of Energy asset that is dedicated to enabling critical scientific, research, and health initiatives of the department and its laboratory system by providing world class expertise in STEM workforce development, scientific and technical reviews, and the evaluation of radiation exposure and environmental contamination.

For more information about FSIS research priorities, visit the agency’s webpage.

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