Basic Research Approach

The most recent estimates from 2011 are that about 1 in 6 Americans experience a foodborne disease each year leading to around 3,000 deaths annually.  More critically, the incidence of some important foodborne diseases, such as those caused by Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes have not decreased in the past decade.  Globally, the first comprehensive estimates – from the Global Burden of Foodborne Disease study – were published in 2015 and find that almost 1 in 10 people globally experience a foodborne disease each year and those cause over 400,000 deaths in children less than 5 years old.  Clearly, food safety continues to be important in the US and globally.

A major challenge in food safety microbiology is to modernize the field from classical microbiological approaches – swabbing, plating, phenotyping – to fully embracing modern techniques – molecular genetics, next-generation sequencing, big-data analytics. To address this major challenge, I focus my research at the interface between three academic domains of microbiology, engineering, and statistics and data science.

My long-term goal is to address fundamental questions in food safety microbiology where answers are relevant to practical questions of food safety management.  I find that my most unique scientific role is as a translator and interpreter who gathers experts from microbiology, engineering, and statistics around a common problem and leads them towards innovative solutions.