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K-State Today

April 4, 2022

Food Science Institute announces Outstanding Food Science Student Awards

Submitted by Randall Phebus

The Kansas State University Food Science Institute has selected the 2021-22 winners of the Outstanding Food Science Students awards. Scuyler Zenger received the Outstanding Food Science Senior Award and Daniel Vega received the Outstanding Graduate Food Science Award.

The awards are selected annually and sponsored by National Beef Packing Co., headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, with processing facilities in Kansas City, Liberal and Dodge City. These awards recognize exemplary academic and professional achievements by an undergraduate senior and a graduate student throughout the duration of their food science degree program at K-State. Students are nominated for the awards by faculty in the interdepartmental food science program, and those students submit applications detailing their accomplishments to the award selection committee. Winners receive an individual plaque and a monetary award, and their names are added to serial winner plaques displayed in the Food Science Institute office. This is the sixth year of the awards.  

Zenger has excelled academically and contributed to numerous academic programs and activities in the College of Agriculture and the university. As a freshman, he served as the Kansas FFA secretary and traveled the state promoting agriculture, food science and leadership. He has been a College of Agriculture Ambassador, serving as social co-chair and vice president of communications. He also served as director and co-chair of the Kansas State University Student Foundation's K-State Proud initiative. Zenger has been a tutor to the athletic program, a teaching assistant in an agricultural policy course, and an undergraduate technical assistant in the food safety and defense lab. Currently, he works in the College of Agriculture academic programs office, supporting student recruitment and prospective student campus visits. After graduation, Zenger will begin his food science career at Land O'Lakes in Pine Island, Minnesota.

Vega completed his doctorate in food science in fall 2021 with a concentration in food safety and quality. His extensive research has focused on the application of antimicrobial intervention technologies to control risks of foodborne pathogens in meat and poultry processing, as well as wheat milling and consumer-ready bakery products. His research focused on the applied science side of technology utilization in food manufacturing and is widely used by the food industry to support commercial food safety plan development, execution and regulatory compliance.

Vega was a lead researcher at K-State's Biosecurity Research Institute on a $25 million U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to control Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in beef processing. He also led USDA and industry-funded research to mitigate pathogen contamination in wheat grain and flour, ultimately improving the safety of bakery items. Vega has directed several undergraduate students and interns in their food safety research projects, along with serving as host and interpreter for numerous bilingual groups visiting campus and the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

Currently, Vega is a postdoctoral research fellow and co-investigator in a $1 million USDA-NIFA grant to mitigate SARS-CoV-2 risks in meat and poultry processing facilities. Vega received numerous national food safety scholarships and awards and has been an invaluable contributor to the daily operations of the Biosecurity Research Institute and Food Science Institute programs. He recently accepted an offer from Viscofan Group LLC, a large global provider of meat casings for products such as smoked sausages and hotdogs, for a technical support specialist position. 

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