We are excited to be kicking off a new academic year here in Blacksburg! Since our last newsletter, there has been even more growth in the department! We had four new faculty begin building their programs last year. They are Drs. Yifan Cheng (Food Packaging), Rachel Cheng (Foodborne Bacteria Pathogenicity), Dennis Cladis (Functional Foods and Phytochemistry), and Alexis Hamilton (Food Processing Microbiology). We are excited to see the programs that they build! We have also welcomed back a relatively recent alumnus, Dr. Renata Carneiro, into a Research Assistant Professor position. This newsletter will provide some additional detail around each of these new additions.
I also want to bring your attention to a couple of other changes that we have made. Joell Eifert has transitioned from her longstanding role in extension and is now engaging primarily with our undergraduate program as an Experiential Learning Laboratory Manager, and Dr. Ken Hurley has transitioned to a Collegiate Faculty position where he will be engaging much more with the academic program in the department.
With all of these changes, we have had to sunset a few programs. One of which is the Enology Analytical Research Lab. This lab has been a staple in the department for over 15 years, beginning as a way to help the Virginia wine industry with analysis. With the huge growth in the industry, other private labs have opened to meet these industries’ needs, and we have decided to focus our efforts directly on education and interpreting lab analysis to have the most impact for the industry.
Finally, the thing that we are most excited about is growth in our student population! We are increasing our undergraduate numbers steadily and have almost reached 100 undergraduates. We introduced a new course in Fall 2022 called “From Raw to Burnt: Exploring Science and Society through Foods.” This course was intentionally designed to meet student requirements in either science or humanities in order to expose more students to the field of food science. We originally planned to only offer it in the fall, but due to demand, we have expanded to offer the course both semesters. Have a great fall, Foodies!
Over the past year, Facebook’s auto moderator tool began taking down pages that it deemed duplicates or “dummy” pages. For reasons not yet clear, this inadvertently affected many legitimate university pages, and a number of Virginia Tech’s pages were taken offline and deleted as a result. Unfortunately, our over 10 year old page was one of those affected. We lost all of our content and followers.
So please give the brand new FST Facebook page a like and a follow to stay up to date on all things FST!
Now on Threads!
Students learn about acidity while making salsa in the new course From Raw to Burnt: Exploring Science and Society through Foods. Photo by Alex Hood for Virginia Tech.
New food science class brings diverse flavors and students to the table
The course, offered by the Department of Food Science and Technology, is using food as a teaching tool to explore science and civilization.
The distinctive smell of baker’s yeast – nutty, warm, and slightly sweet – circulated around the classroom. Sticky hands dug into balls of dough, pushing, folding, and stretching it – a tedious but necessary baking kneading process. The technique helps develop strands of gluten, resulting in a smooth, fluffy ball of dough perfect for a pizza.
This pizza would soon be joyfully consumed by Allison Richards, a student at Virginia Tech.
Richards is one of 60 students taking Virginia Tech’s new course, From Raw to Burnt: Exploring Science and Society through Foods, offered through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Food Science and Technology. This is the second semester the university has offered the class that studies scientific principles and the development of society through the lens one of humans most desirable and most critical basic needs: food.
“Food clearly has a science to it, but it also has a history,” Bruce said. “A whole history of exploitation, a history of power struggles. And while we were brainstorming this course, we thought, ‘Why can’t we be telling these kinds of stories?’”
Mastering one of Germany's most ancient crafts: Beer
Ethan Ball raised the small tasting glass — glowing yellow-amber from the hazy liquid it contained — to his nose. The malted aroma of fresh bread, cloves, and banana filled his nostrils, and after a moment, he took a contemplative sip and considered the unmistakable taste of the Bavarian wheat beer in his hand.
In the United States, such a scene might seem recreational, but for the students in that taproom on the edge of the Technical University of Munich’s hilltop Weihenstephan campus, it was another day in class — “Beverage Dispensing Systems and Sensory of Wheat Beer,” to be precise.
When Ball and the three other students with him sat in that taproom receiving a crash course in German wheat beer, it was only the first week of the Department of Food Science and Technology’s Practical and Theoretical Brewing Exchange. This bilateral study abroad program sends a handful of Hokies to Freising, Germany each summer to learn about Bavarian brewing and culture, and in exchange welcomes a cohort of Technical University of Munich students to Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus to learn about American and Virginian beer and culture.
Virginia Tech and Hardywood draft Fightin’ Hokies Hefeweizen to Hokie beer lineup
A new member has been drafted to Hokie Nation’s official beer lineup.
Fightin’ Hokies Hefeweizen is now available in select Virginia grocery stores, restaurants, and independent bottle shops across Virginia on draft and in 16-ounce cans. The seasonal hefeweizen can be found using Hardywood’s beer finder throughout this fall season.
Hokie Tracks now available in grocery stores and specialty shops
Are you ready for a sweet treat?
Hokie Tracks, the first ice cream of the Hokie Nation, is now available at grocery stores and specialty shops across Virginia. Virginia Tech alumni, students, friends, and fans can now find pints of the Hokie-inspired delicacy near them using Homestead Creamery’s product finder tool.
Before Tech takes on Syracuse, kick off October 26th with your fellow Foodies at our second-ever OktoberFST Alumni Tailgate! Join FST faculty, students, and other alumni for a pretzel and a game of cornhole, get a tour of our facilities, toast friends new and old with a Fightin’ Hokies Hefeweizen, win some sweet Hokie swag in our raffle, and more!
We will have:
Catered Oktoberfest classics including bratwurst, potato salad, soft pretzels, Hokie Tracks ice cream, and more!
A tour of our facilities including the brewery where we develop Virginia Tech’s beers!
Cash bar with adult beverages – including our own Fightin’ Hokies Lager and the new Fightin’ Hokies Hefeweizen
Traditional German music
Lawn games for adults and kids alike!
Door prizes and a prize raffle
Registration is $10 and includes a $5 gift to the Food Science Technology Annual Fund. Current FST students and children ages 12 and under are free.
Get a sneak peek at this year’s
1 shirt per guest included with registration
Tap the pretzel to register now!
New Foodie Faces
Dr. Dennis Cladis
Dr. Cladis joined us last semester as our new Assistant Professor of Phytochemistry and Functional Foods. His research focuses on teasing out polyphenol bioavailability from farm to table to health, and he has a Ph.D. from Purdue.
Dr. Tatiana Lorca
Dr. Lorca ('00, '02) is a two time FST alum with over 26 years of food industry experience. She’s currently Director of Supplier Risk for Compass Group NA, and last semester she rejoined FST as Adjunct Assistant Professor! Welcome back, Dr. Lorca!
A rapidly growing department needs admin support, so last summer Donna Eastwood came aboard as FST’s new Administrative Assistant. She supports faculty and extension programming, plans events, and coordinates travel.
Happy Retirement, Dr. Marcy!
After 35 years with FST, including 15 as its department head, Dr. Joe Marcy decided to retire in September of 2023. The entire department — and friends and family — got together to send him off. Dr. Marcy has done so much to shape the department and was responsible for kickstarting the rapid growth FST is now experiencing.
Congrats and enjoy a well-earned retirement, Joe!
In memoriam: George J. Flick, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Food Science and Technology
George Flick, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Tech, died on June 3. Dr. Flick was the first faculty member hired after the department’s founding in 1969 and was nationally renowned for his contributions to aquaculture and seafood safety, and was a mentor to many. The world will miss his expertise, but we will all miss his unfailing kindness.
In memoriam: Sue Duncan, associate director of Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, director of Center for Advanced Innovation in Agriculture
Sue Duncan, an ebullient leader, professor, and researcher in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences for more than 32 years, passed away suddenly on Oct. 12.
Dr. Duncan founded FST’s Sensory Evaluation Lab and was internationally renowned for her research on milk oxidation. Dr. Duncan was also beloved by countless students for her warm and supportive mentorship.
Humans can experience upwards of 10,000 unique aromas in both food and beverage, and Martha Calvert ran a study to narrow down that number for hard cider. Photo by Alex Hood for Virginia Tech.
Tart, sour, or sweet? Virginia Tech researchers create hard cider lexicon for accurate, shared descriptions
The sensory descriptive analysis study resulted in 33 terms that will aid in cider quality communication and in the production of hard cider.
Citrus, caramelized sugar, vinegary, puckering, sour, and solvent. These are just a handful of the 33 terms that researchers in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences found after conducting a sensory descriptive analysis of hard cider.
This lexicon didn’t previously exist for hard cider, and its development will aid producers in Virginia’s robust cider industry as well as anyone who chooses to enjoy these beverages. Producers will be able to describe their products with precision and clarity because of the study conducted in the Sensory Evaluation Lab at Virginia Tech.
“Because we are minimally trained on using taste and smell, we have a hard time putting a word to a specific taste or smell,” said Martha Calvert, the doctoral student leading the project and graduate research assistant in the Department of Food Science and Technology.
Innovating around complex problems
FST faculty recognized at Celebrating Innovation Event
Virginia Tech inventors who contributed to the innovation ecosystem last year by disclosing 169 new innovations, executed 30 new license agreements with commercial partners, and created 10 new start-up companies, were honored at the second annual Celebrating Innovation event, on April 24.
Hosted by Research and Innovation andLINK+LICENSE+LAUNCH, a number of FST faculty were recognized, including:
Joell Eifert and Brian Wiersema for their work developing university licensed ice cream Hokie Tracks
Proof-Of-Concept Grant Awardees Spring 2023:
Sean O’Keefe, Jacob Lahne, Melissa Wright on a grant led by Deborah Good (HNFE): Conjugated Linoleic Acid Functional Foods for Disease Treatment
Reza Ovissipour for his work developing novel food production systems through cellular agriculture to enhance sustainability, resiliency, and public health