F2OCUS Scholarship Program Seeks Food Science Crossover Undergraduate Students




UA System Agriculture Division photo by Fred Miller

Graduate student Shantae Wilson from Jamaica and Griffiths Atungulu from Kenya use a microwave unit to improve the drying quality of rice and prevent aflatoxin contamination. A new paid summer research program called The Future of Food: Opportunities and Careers for Undergraduate Students starts in 2022.

By John Lovett
U of A System Division of Agriculture

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Future of Food: Opportunities and Careers for Undergraduates (F2OCUS) Fellowship Program is a new 10-week summer research and extension opportunity in Fayetteville in 2022.

Applications are due Friday, March 11 for the 2022 Summer F2OCUS program to be held May 30 through August 30. 5. Candidates will be selected by April 1 and notified the following week. Housing and meals are provided to F2OCUS Fellows, along with a $4,800 stipend and travel support.

Food science researchers at the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the Agriculture System Division at the University of Arkansas, have been awarded a $730,000 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Department of the United States Department of Agriculture to lead the research and extension program for the next five years. years, focusing on recruiting minorities.

“We hope to attract candidates with diverse perspectives and backgrounds to train future leaders in food science,” said Kristen Gibson, F2OCUS Fellowship Program Director and Associate Professor in the Department of Food Science.

The program aims to increase understanding of food supply safety, quality and security for undergraduate students in further study programs including biology, chemistry, consumer science and agricultural studies.

Gibson said food science research at the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station covers a wide range, but some examples of potential research projects for F2OCUS fellows include the development of edible inks for food products printed in 3D; alternative sources of protein to treat and prevent chronic diseases; nanoscale food-grade materials; new techniques to control grain-damaging molds and mycotoxins; ways to reduce foodborne pathogens in low-moisture foods; and look for problems that affect rice quality.

Eight undergraduates who are not enrolled in a food science program will be chosen to spend the summer in Fayetteville, Gibson said. Fellows will work with faculty mentors on real research projects before presenting their work at an end-of-program symposium.

Alongside Gibson, fellowship project directors include food science faculty members Jennifer Acuff, assistant professor of microbiology and food safety, and Jamie Baum, associate professor of nutrition. Jill Rucker, associate professor of agricultural education, communication and technology at the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas, is also a project director and scholarship mentor.

In addition to the four project directors, 10 collaborating mentors with extensive mentoring experience have been chosen to assist with the fellowship program. Industry partners, many of whom are University of Arkansas graduates and serve as adjunct professors, will also participate in the scholarship program.

Gibson said collaborating mentors will be matched with fellows based on their chosen research projects. There may be cases where mentors will co-supervise a student if the project is multidisciplinary.

The scholarship program will also work closely with the Ozark Chapter of the Institute of Food Technologists, whose members represent all areas of the local food industry, from packaging and manufacturing to research and development.

Although scientific research forms an important part of the scholarship, there is also an emphasis on team building, leadership development and communication skills.

“Communicating scientific research to stakeholders and the general public is a critical skill to develop,” Gibson said. “You can’t just reframe data and expect everyone to understand how to use it. As researchers, we need to provide guidance on how data can be used and translated into practice for an application. in the real world.”

The first weekend of the program includes team development exercises with the ExCEL 4-H Leadership Program at the Arkansas 4-H Center in Little Rock. Other field trips will include the Tyson Foods Discovery Center, a Simmons Foods product development lab, and the Experiment Station’s Fruit Research Station in Clarksville.

To be considered for the scholarship, applicants must write a personal essay that tells their background and story, their long-term goals, and an explanation of how this summer program will help them achieve their career goals. Applicants must also submit a reference letter, resume, and unofficial transcript.

Gibson said the application deadline could be extended if there was a need to expand the pool of applicants.

To learn more about the program and to apply, visit https://future-food-reeu.uada.edu.

To learn more about Agriculture Division research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch.

To learn more about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit https://uaex.uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AR_Extension.

To learn more about the Agriculture Division, visit https://uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.

About the Agriculture Division: The mission of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture System is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research with the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the country’s historic land grant education system. The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities in the University of Arkansas system. It has offices in all 75 counties of Arkansas and faculty at five system campuses. The Agricultural System Division of the University of Arkansas offers all of its extension and research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin , religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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