Bob Roberts named head of Food Science Department

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Robert F. Roberts, who has served as interim head of the Penn State Department of Food Science since May 2012, has been named to the post on a permanent basis.

"We're grateful to Bob Roberts for stepping in to guide the department during its period of transition," said Barbara Christ, interim dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. "In the end, it was apparent that his scholarly achievement, his intimate knowledge of the department's strengths and potential, and his strategic vision give him the leadership traits needed to help maintain and enhance the quality of our food science programs into the future."

Roberts joined the Penn State faculty as an assistant professor of food science in 1991. He was promoted to associate professor in 1998 and achieved the rank of full professor in 2012.

His recent research focuses on the quality of fermented dairy products such as yogurt and sour cream, development of molecular techniques to characterize and enhance survival of probiotic bacteria used in dairy products, and evaluation of the influence of delivery matrix on the clinical efficacy of probiotic bacteria.

Roberts also is active in extension and industry-outreach programming. He is director of the Penn State Ice Cream Short Course -- the oldest, best-known and largest educational program dealing with the science and technology of ice cream. Believed to be the first continuing education course in the United States, the Ice Cream Short Course annually draws participants from many of the world's top manufacturers of frozen desserts.

He also founded and directs the Penn State Cultured Dairy Products Short Course, which provides participants with an overview of basic dairy technology and the manufacture of cultured dairy products, including buttermilk, sour cream, cottage cheese, yogurt and cream cheese. He has presented on dairy products processing and dairy microbiology in Australia, China, Germany, Mexico and Ukraine.

Roberts has taught several courses in the Food Science undergraduate major and has supervised numerous master's and doctoral degree students. He received the 2000 Academic Advising Award from the College of Agricultural Sciences Alumni Society and the 2007 Milk Industry Foundation Teaching Award in Dairy Science from the American Dairy Science Association.

A member of several professional organizations, he was president of the American Dairy Science Association from 2011 to 2012 and served on the association's board of directors from 2005 to 2007. He also belongs to the Institute of Food Technologists and the American Society for Microbiology.

Roberts received his bachelor's degree in dairy technology from the University of Vermont, which named him an Outstanding Alumnus of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences in 2008. He earned a master's degree in dairy science from South Dakota State University and a doctorate in food science from the University of Minnesota.

With one of the largest programs of its kind in the country, the Department of Food Science provides research, education and outreach contributing to an abundant supply of affordable, safe, nutritious and appealing food. Research areas include food chemistry, food choice and consumer behavior, food engineering and processing, and microbial food safety.

The department occupies the state-of-the-art Food Science Building, which opened in 2006. Academic home to nearly 50 faculty and staff, and more than 220 undergraduate and 40 graduate students, the building houses laboratories, classrooms, three pilot processing plants and the Penn State Berkey Creamery manufacturing plant and salesroom.

"It's an honor to be chosen as the head of such an internationally respected department," Roberts said. "I am excited to lead this group of high-performing and talented faculty and students, to work with such a dedicated administrative staff and to oversee the Berkey Creamery at Penn State."

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Last Updated March 25, 2013