JIFSAN’s work doesn’t only apply to professionals already in their career fields; JIFSAN also supports students working towards a future in food safety. Sarah Allard, a University of Maryland PhD student in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, is one of the students that JIFSAN helps support with career goals and research.
Allard received her B.A. in Biology from Haverford College in 2009 and now works in a food safety and microbial ecology lab as she strives for her doctorate. Being a graduate student supported by JIFSAN gives Allard access to FDA laboratories and funding to attend conferences and workshops related to her career goals.
“With access to facilities and mentors at both FDA and UMD, I have many opportunities to further my education and prepare for my career,” Allard said.
The graduate student recently attended a workshop called “Strategies and Techniques for Analyzing Microbial Population Structures (STAMPS)”. The workshop took place at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) of Woods Hole, MA. It included both theoretical and hands-on training with an introduction to the newest tools in microbial community analysis. The MBL is a private, nonprofit institution dedicated to improving the human condition through research and education.
At the workshop, Allard participated in a bioinformatics course which was tailored to biologists like her. The workshop allowed Allard the chance to get her questions answered by professional scientists who have created advanced programs in the field. It also gave her a chance to connect with potential future collaborators.
Allard also attended the International Association for Food Protection annual meeting where she presented a poster featuring her research. This included investigating the influence of TS-15 biocontrol application, with or without chicken litter soil amendment, on the microbial ecology and foodborne pathogen risk of an eastern shore tomato field. The meeting gave Allard the chance to get career advice from people working in her fields of interest.
“I enjoy doing applied field research and working with farmers,” Allard said. “I am interested in working in cooperative extension.”
Allard’s commitment to her education and research is reaping results. She is focused on preparing for her candidacy exam, a proposal defense and oral exam that takes place in December. She is also a TA for Dr. Shirley Micalef’s PLSC115: “How Safe is Your Salad? The Microbiological Safety of Fresh Produce” course. This year, Allard is the graduate student representative for the Plant Science department as well as a member of the Junior Advisory Group of the American Society for Microbiology. Through her membership, Allard will chair a workshop in New Orleans this spring called “Analyses of Microbial Community Composition and Metagenomics using QIIME”.