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3-A SSI Announces 2024 Dr. Ron Schmidt Student Travel Award Winners

3-A Sanitary Standards will present 10 students with an award that covers travel, lodging and the registration fee to attend the Summit on Hygienic Design.

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3-A Sanitary Standards, Inc. announced 10 recipients of the 3-A SSI 2024 Dr. Ron Schmidt Student Travel Award. The award helps motivated, career-oriented students attend and participate in the 2024 Summit on Hygienic Design: Advancing Product Safety, Efficiency and Sustainability, which will be held at the Marriott Chicago O’Hare May 7-9.

The highly competitive 3-A SSI student travel award program attracted a very diverse and accomplished group of applicants this year.

“3-A SSI serves an essential role in hygienic design education since professionals from all industries recognize the importance of equipment integrity in assuring food safety,” says 3-A SSI Chair John Allan, vice president of the International Dairy Foods Association. “The 3-A SSI travel program gives these future food industry professionals a great opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge about hygienic equipment design in the real world and to network with a broad group of experienced industry leaders and regulatory professionals.” 

The award honors the late Dr. Ronald H. Schmidt, University of Florida Professor Emeritus. One of the co-founders of 3-A SSI, Schmidt was passionate about encouraging the next generation of food industry professionals to learn about all aspects of hygienic equipment design and food safety. Schmidt’s career spanned nearly 40 years in the University of Florida Food Science and Human Nutrition Department. He authored dozens of peer-reviewed papers and authored or co-authored 25 books and was recognized internationally as an authority on food safety and sanitary design. 

“There is no question that the 10 students selected for the 2024 award are future leaders in food safety,” says Tim Rugh, executive director of 3-A SSI. “They embody the ideals that Dr. Schmidt dedicated his career to nurturing in his students.”

The students are invited to present a poster on their research at the event. The posters will be located in the networking space, where attendees will spend nearly eight hours over the three-day event. 

Recipients of the 3-A SSI 2023 Dr. Ron Schmidt Student Travel Awards:

Ranee K. Anderson, a Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University, Department of Food Science

Anderson’s work bridges food science, food technology and synthetic biology to achieve food safety using manufacturing resources that can be used to detect pathogens. “My interest in this field is not just for personal success, but to make significant contributions to the protection of public health,” she says.

In addition to advancing her knowledge of sanitary design principles, Anderson says she hopes to “contribute to discussions on innovative and sustainable food processing equipment and practices by integrating cutting-edge technologies such as the one I have designed to detect and kill pathogens.” 

Charles Bency Appolon, a Ph.D. student at the University of Georgia, Department of Food Science and Technology

Appolon’s current doctoral research focuses on the synergistic effects of lactic acid and UV-C on inactivating Listeria on food contact surfaces, particularly understanding how different types of materials influence sanitation outcomes. “This research is a journey to finding strategic and targeted sanitation approaches that can prevent the persistence of Listeria in food processing environments,” he says.

The 3-A SSI 2024 Summit on Hygienic Design, Appolon says, “is a perfect platform to learn about the latest research and developments in the food safety field, notably in hygienic equipment design.”

Priya Biswas, a Ph.D. student in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Food Science and Technology Department

Biswas is collaborating with a team of processed meat scientists to address various critical aspects of food safety. In this role, Biswas says she offers a multidisciplinary approach, ensuring quality assurance, identifying potential hazards, mitigating risks, and meeting USDA FSIS requirements. “This comprehensive approach allows us to address various critical aspects of food safety in the processing of meats and ultimately ensuring the safety and well-being of consumers,” she says.

Attending the 3-A SSI 2024 Summit on Hygienic Design, Biswas says, is an “opportunity to understand the crucial role of hygienic equipment design and principles of food safety for ensuring the consumer's protection.” 

Minji Hur, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Georgia, Department of Food Science and Technology and the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia

Hur’s current research focuses on food safety and microbiology, particularly in the areas of intervention of biofilm formation, microbial quality of foods, and the antibacterial effects of blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs) on food contact surfaces against foodborne pathogens, which are essential for designing hygienic equipment.

Hur says she is particularly interested in attending educational sessions while at the 3-A SSI 2024 Summit on Hygienic Design. “I am eager to learn more about advancing product safety, efficiency, and sustainability and to collaborate with other professionals in the field by translating fundamental research into real-world applications,” she says.

Sheetal Jha, a Ph.D. student at the Louisiana State University School of Nutrition and Food Science

Jha’s research aims to address the persistent challenge of microbial contamination in fresh produce, particularly Listeria. She is developing a natural antimicrobial step as an antimicrobial coating to a food contact surface and an antimicrobial wash as a sanitizer to a non-food contact surface. “I am currently working on the hydroponic system and food processing floor areas, and I have isolated the background microflora to determine their predominance over the Listeria monocytogenes Scott A outbreak strain,” she says.

“Attending the 3-A SSI conference would be the best platform to showcase my research through poster presentations and networking with experts from this field,” says Jha. “I hope to gain an understanding of the current challenges facing the industry, available resources, gaps, and areas where futuristic technology is required.”

Jake McGwin, a Master’s degree student at the University of Georgia, Department of Food Science and Technology

McGwin’s research focuses on the bacteria Cronobacter sakazakii and its ability to form biofilms in liquid substrates, specifically powdered infant formula. “After determining some baseline characteristics and behavior of the bacteria, we will move to how biofilms can be formed in heat exchanger equipment that has been fouled through the pasteurization of milk or milk-like products,” he explains.

McGwin hopes to learn from attendees who are dealing with the issues central to his research. He says the experience will help him “better understand what happens on an industrial level, how they mitigate these problems, as well as the limitations of current technologies or practices that can be changed for the better.” 

Amrit Pal, a Ph.D. student at the University of Georgia, Department of Food Science and Technology

Pal’s current research “revolves around understanding the architecture of biofilms formed by Salmonella and Listeria in retail store environments and food processing settings, with a specific emphasis on their resistance to sanitizers and implications for food safety,” he says.

Pal, who hopes to pursue an academic career much like that of the late Dr. Ron Schmidt, also aims to apply his expertise as a consultant on food safety management systems and to collaborate with equipment manufacturers to verify the efficacy of equipment designs in preventing bacterial growth and facilitating cleaning.

The 2024 Summit on Hygienic Design, Pal says, “offers a chance to interact with experts, stay abreast of emerging food safety issues, and explore innovations in hygienic equipment design.”

Daniela Segura, a Master’s degree student at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Department of Food Science and Technology

Segura, a chemical engineer who previously worked in the cosmetic industry, is currently engaged in two projects. The first, to develop a hygienic design badge for the University of Nebraska Lincoln, aims to make hygienic design more accessible for students and workers. The second, a research project focused on the inactivation of E. faecium on whole black peppercorns using hydrogen peroxide vapor, enhances the food safety of spices.

Attendance at the 2024 Summit on Hygienic Design, particularly “the program's hands-on training, networking opportunities, and knowledge,” she says, “will further strengthen my understanding of food safety principles.” She hopes that connecting with other attendees will enrich her learning and open doors that may lead to future collaborations.

Trushenkumar (Trushen) Shah, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Animal Science at the University of Connecticut

Shah, whose academic program is focused on food microbiology and safety, has expertise in veterinary medicine and pharmacology. He is actively involved in several research initiatives, including one dedicated to controlling Salmonella spp. biofilm formation on steel and plastic surfaces. “I am engaged in the development of water dispersible nano emulsions using Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status plant compounds such as Trans-cinnamaldehyde, caprylic acid, carvacrol and food grade emulsifiers (gum arabic, lecithin), with the aim of investigating their efficacy against biofilm eradication and potential use as natural sanitizers in food industry,” he says.

Shah says the event will “offer a platform for me to connect with fellow food scientists, expanding my professional network. I also anticipate engaging in discussions with industry professionals to explore potential collaborations for conducting industrial-scale studies utilizing phytochemical nano emulsions.”

Maria Shaposhnikov, a Master’s degree student at Cornell University, Department of Food Science

Shaposhnikov’s research is focused on “establishing novel quality parameters for raw milk and identifying potential connections between farming practices and raw milk quality,” she says. In addition, she anticipates a project exploring “school milk fillers before and after preventative maintenance. The primary aim is to identify potential sources of contamination that contribute to the issue of lower-quality school milk,” she says.

Shaposhnikov says she hopes the event will allow her to “gain broader exposure to the type of technology the industry uses in the hygienic processing of milk.” She says she will “apply this technical knowledge to my research, which will further enhance the safety and quality of milk for current and future generations.”

Each recipient of a 2024 travel award demonstrates interest and commitment to food safety and quality as a student enrolled full-time in a food technology, food science, dairy science or other closely related program at a college or university in the United States or Canada. Award recipients were selected on the basis of a personal essay and a letter of recommendation from a faculty member or department head.

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