Food microbiologist and Ph.D. student Stephanie Barnes Brown was raised in an agricultural-minded community in Georgia where she participated in FFA. Her father earned a poultry science degree and still works in the field, and both grandparents were involved in agriculture. She’d love to bring her passion for agriculture into a career that melds food science with consumer education. Here’s what she said in an interview.
Where did you study as an undergraduate? What was your major? I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in food science in 2013 and my master’s degree in food science from the University of Georgia in 2015.
Why did you decide to go to graduate school? I began my collegiate career wanting to work in a field where I could help improve peoples’ lives by protecting the health of the general population. In the first year of introductory science courses, I was intrigued by the direct impact the fields of food science and agricultural defense have on the global food system. I was most excited by the potential opportunities within food science, and microbiology in particular, to solve problems that impact everyone. This passion has led me to continue with my education to further expand my food safety knowledge base.
Who is your advisor? What is your field of research? My advisor is Dr. Dennis D’Amico. I am currently working on various strategies to improve the safety and quality of dairy products. Specifically, my dissertation work focuses on using various antimicrobial interventions to control Listeria monocytogenes in cheeses and the impact of these treatments on virulence.
Name one aspect of your work that you like. I really enjoy the diversity of projects and techniques I get to use to solve both the basic and applied aspects of my research questions. Coming to work every day knowing that I will have a different set of tasks is something I have really appreciated during my time at UConn. Also, working with cheese is very awesome!
In your opinion, what is your greatest accomplishment so far? This past year I served as chair for the International Association for Food Protection’s Student Professional Development Group. Helping students connect with professionals in the food safety field and create new programs centered on professional development was a very rewarding experience.
When do you expect to get your degree? What then? My anticipated graduation date is May 2019. I am not sure what type of position I am looking for post-graduation and I am leaving all options open at this point in time.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? During my master’s degree, I served as a teaching assistant for the Viticulture and Enology in the Mediterranean Region Course, which took place in Cortona, Italy. After living in Italy for two months, I have a sentimental spot for Italian food and culture and hope to return one day in the future.