Professionals in bioscience, food-related industries turn to K-State

September 27, 2007

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- Workshops, online programs and databases are just some of the ways that Kansas State University shares knowledge about the biosciences, food safety and animal health with the professionals who help ensure the safety of our food supply.

In the past 27 years, more than 4,000 scientists from across the United States and around the world have turned to Kansas State University to learn about systems of rapid identification of microorganisms found in medical specimens, foods, water and the environment. Daniel Y.C. Fung, professor of animal sciences and industry and food science at K-State, offers the Rapid Methods and Automation in Microbiology workshop each summer. The next workshop will be June 13-20, 2008, at K-State.

Every other year, K-State attracts scientists worldwide to a workshop on a genus of fungi called Fusarium. John Leslie, professor and head of the plant pathology department at K-State, has been organizing the workshop since 2000.

"This summer, the workshop at K-State drew 42 participants from nearly 20 different countries," Leslie said.

He was joined by six other Fusarium experts from around the world. When the workshop isn't at K-State, Leslie and colleagues take their expertise to locations as far away as Australia, South Africa and Malaysia.

Leslie said, "Researchers often cite a manual written to accompany the course. The workshop has attracted sponsors like the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, with headquarters in Ibadan, Nigeria, and Pathogen Control Associates Inc., an environmental health company with headquarters near Atlanta."

With more than 150 faculty and staff active in the food safety and animal health arenas and more than $70 million going toward related research since 1999, K-State has established itself as a leader in ensuring the safety of the nation's food supply.

K-State offers professionals in food-related industries the opportunity to learn more about food safety both on and off campus, said Curtis Kastner. He is the director of K-State's Food Science Institute, which includes approximately 50 nationally and internationally recognized graduate faculty from five colleges and 11 departments. Because K-State's food safety and defense graduate certificate is offered online, the program lets professionals learn from K-State food science experts while continuing their careers. A certificate in food safety and defense helps people in the food industry and related industries -- even the engineers who design the facilities. K-State also offers online undergraduate and graduate certificates, as well as bachelor's or master's degrees in food science.

"We have as many students off campus, most of them working in food-related industries, as we do on campus," Kastner said.

The National Agricultural Biosecurity Center at K-State also is reaching out beyond the campus. The center is helping emergency responders and other professionals at governmental agencies. Marty Vanier, the center's associate director, said, "The center uses its agricultural expertise to work with governmental agencies, including those within the Department of Defense, to teach professionals about food safety activities and to help them understand agricultural diseases and why they are important to human health."

The center's Web site at http://nabc.ksu.edu/ offers a lessons learned database to help educate emergency responders about dealing with naturally or intentionally introduced disease. Vanier said the center is working to link with other organizations so emergency responders and other professionals can have a "one-stop shop" for learning.

"Some of these diseases may not impact humans directly, but the fact is that these diseases impact agriculture," Vanier said. "These diseases come from around the world, but they could conceivably impact the United States or impact U.S. personnel around the world."
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Kansas State University

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