Researchers at University of Massachusetts, Amherst are reaping the rewards of breakthrough food science research, in the form of USDA grants totaling over $1.5 million.As part of an ongoing effort to improve the quality and safety of food products in the United States, researchers at UMass, Amherst have received three-year grants to continue work on innovative projects.
Two grants for $939,000 were awarded to Lili He from the UMass Food Science department from the agriculture department's National Institute for Food and Agriculture. According to a university press release, He’s work involves the development of faster, more precise methods of food-borne pathogens such as Salmonella and Listeria and pesticide residue detection.
Each of He’s three-year research projects take advantage of her special expertise in a technique called surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), which can detect samples as small as single molecules. Her research will not only reduce health risks of food-borne pathogens, but should improve the long-range sustainability of U.S. agriculture and food systems by reducing economic loss due to product recalls, she notes.
A separate grant for $499,977 was awarded to assistant food science professor Julie Goddard for the development of "active food packaging," to prevent microbial growth and inhibit spoilage without contaminating food.
Active packaging in use at present allows companies to use fewer food additives, as consumers are demanding, but some packaging additives end up in food, Goddard explains. Advanced packaging technologies she and colleagues develop will improve shelf life with fewer additives and therefore economic and environmental sustainability of packaged foods.
“UMass Amherst has come a long way since its founding as the Massachusetts Agricultural College,” said Congressman James McGovern, who announced the awards. “While it has stayed true to its agricultural roots, today UMass Amherst boasts some of the best and brightest scientific minds in the Commonwealth. These federal funds will help these researchers increase food safety and expand access to fresh, local, healthy food to those who need it most.”
In addition to important research projects related to agriculture and food-borne illnesses, scientists at University of Massachusetts, Amherst have active and highly subsidized projects in the fields of:
- Agriculture, Food and the Environment
- Biological Physics
- Neuroendocrine studies
- Cellular Engineering
- Applied Life Sciences
- Global Health
As a leading life science research institution, UMass Amherst is constantly making use of millions in annual research funding in these, and several other life science research fields.
Recent examples of significant funding for UMass include:
- The University of Massachusetts, Amherst ranks third in Massachusetts for research funding from the National Science Foundation, behind only MIT and Harvard University.
- The University of Massachusetts, Amherst is undergoing a five-year, $1.4 billion construction and renovation project on its campus.
- In 2013 received $39.7 million in research funding from the NSF.
- In 2013, the National Institutes of Health awarded the University of Massachusetts, Amherst $21.7 million in research funding.
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