College of Agricultural Sciences alum reflects on lessons learned at Penn State

Jack Ouligian
June 29, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Nelson Gaydos, an outreach specialist with the American Association of Meat Processors, credits his education and experiences at Penn State for helping him to meet the challenges of the food industry.

“I grew up on a small beef cattle and horse farm south of Pittsburgh, so I had a strong agricultural background,” he said. “I knew that I wanted to pursue something in that field, and after my older sister went to Penn State, I knew that I wanted to go there, too.”

Gaydos began his college education in fall 2008 at the Penn State Fayette campus. Initially interested in the dairy industry, he changed his career path after he transferred to University Park and began working in the Penn State Meats Laboratory under the direction of Manager Glenn Myers.

Gaydos worked at the meats laboratory for more than three years, spending 15-20 hours there every week.

“I gained a lot of experience in the laboratory by working with Glenn Myers and with other students,” he said. “That lab was a huge factor in my decision to take my career into the meat industry.”

Nelson Gaydos

Penn State alumnus Nelson Gaydos is an outreach specialist with the American Association of Meat Processors.

IMAGE: Courtesy Nelson Gaydos

His food science classes and work experience complemented each other.

“The hands-on practical knowledge was very helpful,” Gaydos said. “I would learn something in class and then I would do it in the laboratory, or I would do something in the laboratory and then learn about it in class.”

Through these experiences, his knowledge of and interest in meat increased.

“The process is fascinating,” he said. “If you break it down, meat is more than 70% water yet is such a nutrient-dense food. It is just a fascinating process from grass and grains to animal to food products. I am very happy to be a part of this industry.”

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in food science from the College of Agricultural Sciences, Gaydos continued his education and earned a master’s degree in animal science. For his thesis, he performed research on pickled sausages, inoculating them with pathogenic bacteria and spoilage microorganisms.

“My time in graduate school taught me how to be independent, not just to be an independent thinker, but to take responsibility and to push a project forward myself,” Gaydos said.

Jonathan Campbell, associate professor of animal science and an extension meat specialist who advised Gaydos during his time in graduate school, remembered him well. He was impressed with Gaydos’ dedication and work ethic.

“He juggled class responsibilities, lab work and assisted his fellow graduate cohort with their sampling while he helped me plan, host and execute various extension short courses and conferences,” Campbell said. “After his master’s graduation, he applied for an extension position at Penn State and was very successful in that role until the job at AAMP was announced.”

At the American Association of Meat Processors, Gaydos reaches out to its more than 1,400 members, most of whom are medium-sized and small-scale meat processors. Gaydos answers questions on everything from food safety to product recalls, creates training and educational videos, and helps write articles for the association’s monthly newsletter and website.

He heads its internship program where students and recent college graduates are matched with processor members across the country to gain hands-on experience. Additionally, he travels around the country attending state and regional meat conventions, where he helps educate meat processors and promote the organization.

“It’s mostly a reactive job,” Gaydos said. “If someone has a problem, I try to find them a solution.”

In the future, he said that he would like to pursue more laboratory work, along the lines of his research at Penn State, in tandem with his other responsibilities.

“I’d like to be more of a contributor to the scientific side of the meat industry,” Gaydos said. “And, as I continue my career at the American Association of Meat Processors, I’m hoping to be more involved with that.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 29, 2020