Food safety research usually involves analyzing live populations of foodborne pathogens like Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli, but University of Georgia food scientist Henk den Bakker fights pathogens by developing computer software.
Thirty-two UGA employees retired April 1. Retirees, their job classification, department and years of service are:
Daniel Mwalwayo has spent most of his professional career working to ensure a safe food supply in his home country of Malawi.
This spring, he’s spending three months focused on that goal while training at the University of Georgia through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program. The program, which is administered at UGA by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Office of Global Programs, promotes food security and economic growth by providing training and collaborative research opportunities to researchers and policymakers from developing or middle-income countries.
After nearly a decade working for the national food inspection program in Malawi, Mwalwayo wanted to study how to minimize aflatoxin in processed peanuts, a problem he sees firsthand at home. The Borlaug program matched him with Koushik Adhikari, a UGA food science professor who is an expert in sensory analysis and is working with Mwalwayo on how to survey consumers on peanut consumption and aflatoxin-related issues. Mwalwayo also spent time in the lab of Jia-Sheng Wang, the head of the Environmental Health Science Department at UGA, to learn more about aflatoxin testing techniques.
University of Georgia food microbiologist Xiangyu Deng’s work in the emerging field of bioinformatics led to his selection as a Creative Research Medal winner for 2017.
The medal is one of the prestigious honors bestowed annually by the UGA Research Foundation. Awards are given to outstanding faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students in recognition of excellence in research, scholarly creativity and technology commercialization at UGA.
Deng, an assistant professor of food microbiology with the Center for Food Safety (CFS) on the UGA Griffin campus, was recognized for creating a cloud-based software tool that quickly classifies strains of salmonella, one of the most prevalent foodborne pathogens in the United States and worldwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 million foodborne illnesses and 380 deaths in the U.S. each year can be linked to nontyphoidal salmonella.
The SeqSero system identifies serotypes, or distinct strains of salmonella, from infected humans, animals, foods and the environment using whole genome sequencing. This system allows for accurate, fast “fingerprinting” of any salmonella strain and replaces a complicated, time-consuming laboratory protocol. Analysis time using SeqSero takes just minutes — analysis using the old system took days — while adding no extra cost.
Last summer, seven seniors from Pike County High School (PCHS) in Zebulon, Georgia, with an aptitude for science made a commitment to work alongside University of Georgia Griffin campus scientists three days a week for the entire school year. This month, they will complete their yearlong partnership.
The students, Courtney Bagwell, Dylan Blohm, Abigail Chasteen, Nikki Dodson, Megan Pitts, Taylor Thomas and Talisa Watts, are the first group to take part in the off-campus internship.
"The beauty and the flexibility of the (Pike County STEM) Academy is that we have a lot of standards, but we can pick and choose the ones that fit with science and math, and then add in the technology and the engineering through agriculture," said Greg Waits, the program's coordinator and the agriculture education teacher at the high school.
Students are selected for the program based on their test scores in math and science. Then they take advanced classes in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas during their freshman, sophomore and junior years before participating in the off-campus experience at UGA-Griffin.
Formally, the students earn Advanced Placement science credits for participating. They also gain a wealth of information and personal experience.
Agriculture is Georgia’s top industry, and students from the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences are learning about the diversity of agriculture during a weeklong tour across the state.
Thirty-three students are spending their spring break immersing themselves in learning more about poultry, Vidalia onions, peanuts, turfgrass and many other commodities that make agriculture an almost $14 billion industry in Georgia.
“This is an amazing tour that allows students to see Georgia agriculture up close and personal. Students learn about the complexity and sophistication of Georgia agriculture,” said Josef Broder, CAES associate dean for academic affairs. “They gain a perspective and appreciation for agriculture that better prepares them for careers in and outside of agriculture.”
The tour began on Monday in north Georgia with stops to learn about apples at Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, Georgia; wine at Wolf Mountain Vineyards in Dahlonega, Georgia; poultry production at the Georgia Poultry Laboratory in Gainesville, Georgia; and nursery production at James Greenhouses, a family-owned and -operated perennial plug operation in Colbert, Georgia.
University of Georgia scientists are now better equipped to help businesses launch new food products with the opening of the Food Technology Center, locally known as the FoodPIC building, on the UGA Griffin campus. The facility houses the university’s Food Product Innovation and Commercialization, or FoodPIC, Center.
The $7.4 million project was funded through $3.5 million from the state of Georgia and additional funds from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Griffin-Spalding Development Authority and the University of Georgia.
The state-of-the-art 14,500-square-foot facility was dedicated on Jan. 30 with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Speakers at the ceremony included Board of Regents Chairman Dr. C. Thomas Hopkins Jr., state Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin), Chairman of the Griffin-Spalding Development Authority Board Charles Copeland, Dean and Director of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Sam Pardue, and Pike County STEM Academy student Nikki Dodson, along with UGA President Jere W. Morehead.
“The Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center is an outstanding example of the University of Georgia using its resources to help strengthen our state’s economy,” Morehead said. “We are grateful for the support we have received for the new Food Technology Center, and we are excited to expand the reach of FoodPIC within the global food industry.”
Seventeen UGA employees retired Dec. 1. Retirees, their job classification, department and years of service are:
Georgia House Resolution 744 created a committee to study the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, in the state. Created as a result of public concern, the committee will look at the uses of these remote-controlled, airplane-like devices, equipped with cameras and used by law enforcement agencies and other government authorities, to determine whether they invade privacy.
University of Georgia scientist Clint Waltz in Griffin, Georgia, has been using an aerial drone to reduce the amount of time he and his technician spend documenting data in fields. They also use the drone to gather supplemental data through bird’s-eye-view photographs of research plots.
Waltz is uncovering how his research benefits from the use of his drone, or what looks like a miniature helicopter with a camera mounted underneath it.
“Photo documentation is essential to our research, and the drone can take aerial photos of the effects of different fertilizer and pesticide treatments on various grasses,” said Waltz, UGA Extension’s turfgrass specialist. “It can go up 50 or 60 feet and take a photo, which helps us measure treatment effects.”
The drone Waltz uses on the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences campus in Griffin is lightweight, weighing under 5 pounds.
Maxwell Lamptey is visiting America, specifically Griffin, Georgia, in the hopes of learning new methods to fight aflatoxin — a carcinogen produced by soil fungus that can grow on peanuts — in his home country of Ghana. Lamptey is participating in a short-term training program, from March to September, supported by the Peanut and Mycotoxin Innovation Lab (PMIL), housed at the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
A senior technical officer studying legumes at the Crops Research Institute, Lamptey has been working on the university’s campus in Griffin, Georgia, alongside food scientist and PMIL collaborator Jinru Chen.
Research is nothing new to Lamptey, but his work normally focuses on ways to increase yields.
“In Ghana, I am involved in conducting a lot of trials, evaluations and cross hybridizations of all kinds of legumes, but mainly cowpeas and groundnuts (peanuts),” he said.
On the UGA Griffin Campus, he is studying the use of solar drying to control aflatoxin contamination in peanuts. He is comparing solar drying to normal drying.
Normal drying involves exposing the peanuts directly to sunlight on the ground or on concrete. Solar drying does not expose the peanuts directly to sunlight or rain. Instead, a dryer captures the heat from the sun and an enclosed structure around the nuts conducts the heat, Lamptey said.