Emily graduated with a bachelor’s degree in May 2016 from Fresno State, majoring in animal science-production management. Currently she is a second year graduate student at Fresno State where she is pursuing a master’s degree in animal science in the Department of Animal Science and Agricultural Education and is also a student assistant in the Fresno State Meat Lab.
In high school Emily joined the Future Farmers of America (FFA) which provided classroom instruction and hands-on agricultural projects. Through the FFA she learned what skills and academic preparation are required for a variety of agricultural careers. While Emily grew up surrounded by agriculture and animals, it was her experiences and coursework in college where she found a passion for the science that supports the agricultural industry. She became involved in the meat science club at Fresno State and while attending conferences and industry tours, she realized she truly enjoyed the meat industry and decided to pursue a graduate degree.
For her thesis, Emily is working on an ARI-sponsored food safety project with Dr. Amanda McKeith, an assistant professor in the department of Animal Sciences and Agricultural Education at Fresno State. Food safety is always an important issue in the food industry. The Center for Disease Control estimates that each year, 48 million people in the U.S. get sick from a food-borne illness. According to the World Health Organization, Salmonella bacteria are one of the most common causes of food poisoning and are “ubiquitous and hardy”. To minimize the risk of food poisoning, the USDA and FDA have set temperature requirements for meat preparation that minimizes Salmonella during all stages of the process. High temperatures are required to reduce or kill these harmful bacteria, but they also tend to make meat drier and tougher. Emily and Dr. McKeith hypothesize that meat held at slightly cooler temperatures for a longer period may reduce harmful bacteria to safe levels and the meat would be moist and tender. Using prime rib roast held at temperatures lower than the USDA requirements, Emily and Dr. McKeith are assessing bacterial concentrations. Instead of using pathogenic Salmonella, they use a surrogate bacteria (Enterococcus faecium) that is safer to handle. This research has allowed Emily to learn the basic approaches used in research, including the importance of developing an experimental design and having a plan of action ready before conducting research to minimize errors and eliminate mistakes that could ruin the experiment. She also learned that good research takes a lot of time, hard work and dedication to make sure she has good data.
Emily has already completed her experiments and is now using the statistical analyses she learned in classes to analyze her own data. Once these analyses are completed she will write up her thesis and look for the next step in her career.