College of Ag Sciences gets USDA funding for food science fellows

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences has received a $238,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay for the training of three doctoral fellows representing underserved minorities in food science.

The funding comes from USDA's Food and Agricultural Sciences National Needs Graduate and Postgraduate Fellowship Grants Program. The multidisciplinary training will be conducted under the Food and Nutrition for Health program and supports USDA's strategic goals to improve nutrition and health and to promote a safe food supply.

Selecting fellows from underserved minorities addresses the existence of "an expertise shortage area" in food science, according Edward Dudley, assistant professor of food science, who is overseeing the fellowships.

"The role food plays in human health and well-being is of growing scientific and public interest," he said. "Ensuring that consumers benefit from potential health-promoting effects of select foods while maintaining a safe and abundant food supply depends on a workforce of well-educated food scientists."

"More than ever, these individuals must have not only rigorous scientific training, but effective communication skills to provide sound information to the public about health and food-safety claims reported by the popular press."

Dudley said the fellows, who will be selected in collaboration with North Carolina A&T University, will develop critical thinking skills through resident education and thesis research. Participants also will gain leadership and public-communication skills through the establishment of the Structured Controversies and Scientific Evidence for Health Claims seminar series, which they will organize.

"The seminars will be used to critique current issues in food science and nutrition in a public forum," Dudley explained. "Integration of the fellows into the undergraduate research programs at North Carolina A&T additionally will transform them into the next generation of mentors.

"This program will impact the targeted expertise shortage area in the short and long term through the professional development of global-ready fellows and education of the public," he added. "It also will strengthen the relationships between the food science programs at Penn State and North Carolina A&T."

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Last Updated February 16, 2012