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Institute leads K-State's efforts in food science

By Michelle Hall


Curtis KastnerFood science has a long history at Kansas State University, beginning as a graduate program in 1965, with an undergraduate program added in 1972. In 2001, the Food Science Institute was formed at K-State to give the area of food science more visibility, said Curtis Kastner, institute director, pictured at left. The institute integrates research, teaching and extension in food science.

Among the program areas of the institute are functional food and nutraceuticals; value-added processing; and food safety and security. The mission of the institute is to facilitate training of traditional and nontraditional undergraduate and graduate students, support basic and applied research initiatives, and provide technical and scientific information to consumers, the food industry and governmental agencies.

Kastner said the Institute brings together the biological, sociological and physical sciences aspects of food science.

"By integrating appropriate disciplines, academia can paint truer pictures of today's challenges and solutions, and thus are more relevant to the clientele served," he said. "The universities that are best at that integration will lead into the future."

Food science faculty expertise includes cereal science, dairy food technology, food chemistry, food engineering, food microbiology, food safety and security (pre- and postharvest), human nutrition, meat science, physical chemistry and rheology, product development, sensory analysis, public policy, economics, communication and public health.

"The institute also works with the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center and several departments to coordinate and facilitate food safety and security programs across K-State," Kastner said. The Food Science Institute oversees K-State's contributions to the Food Safety Consortium, a U.S. Department of Agriculture project also involving Iowa State University and the University of Arkansas. The consortium has been active for 18 years and performs various research projects. The institute also administers K-State's targeted excellence and U.S. Department of Education-funded food safety and security projects.

The undergraduate enrollment in the food science program at K-State is among the largest in the United States, when both on-campus and distance education students are counted. Since the Food Science Institute's founding in 2001, the number of undergraduate students in the program has gone from 30 to 120 and the graduate program has gone from the sixth largest in the nation to the third.

K-State's Distance Food Science Certificate Program is one of the first in the nation and its distance education program was the first in the food science field in the country.

In all, K-State offers by distance a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, two certificate programs, more than 30 distance education courses and several professional development opportunities in food science.

Food science-related facilities housed in cooperating departments include cereal and grain, dairy, meat, poultry, egg, thermal, extrusion, fermentation, sensory analysis and value-added processing/evaluation capabilities. Interaction with existing centers, including the Kansas Center for Agricultural Resources and the Environment and the Bioprocessing and Industrial Value-Added Program facility expands the expertise needed to address food-related issues. Researchers within the institute also will make use of the new facilities at K-State's Biosecurity Research Institute, which will be completed in fall 2006.

The Food Science Institute at Kansas State University blends disciplines and facilities, it blends teaching, research and extension, and it blends commodities, Kastner said.

"Every university has about the same capabilities," he said. "It's how you integrate those capabilities that makes you relevant to meeting today's challenges."

Kastner can be reached at 785-532-4057 or ckastner@k-state.edu


Summer 2006