Women in Science: Who’s Looking Out for Your Backyard Burgers?

Garner-header-848x477This post was written by Danisha Garner, a graduate student in NC State’s Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences.

Spring is finally here and the weather is getting warm. Pretty soon there will be cookouts happening in backyards all around with juicy burgers on the grill. So how would you like your food prepared: rare, medium rare, medium, etc.? Is it okay to consume a burger that is not well done? Will I develop a food-borne illness? What pathogens would cause the illness? How did the pathogens get on the burger? What could be done to prevent contamination?

These are questions that I asked myself as my interest in food safety developed. It started after I had the opportunity to tour a beef processing facility to learn more about where my food comes from and how it gets from farm to table.

My growing interest in public health and food safety led me to pursue my Master’s Degree in Food Science here at NC State. I am not the traditional graduate student that spends most of their time in a laboratory doing research. I chose the non-thesis route because my food safety interests focus more on regulatory/compliance work such as performing inspections and conducting audits.

Since I began the program, I have been able to learn about food-borne illness outbreak investigations, scientific technologies used to study food-borne pathogens, laws and regulations that pertain to food safety, and mitigation strategies that are currently being applied in the food industry to help prevent food contamination. I have also had the opportunity to tour different types of food processing facilities in North Carolina ranging from Smithfield/Farmland to the Campbell Soup Company.

Through a combination of classroom and laboratory training I have been able to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to help improve the safety and quality of the foods we eat, and I look forward to applying these skills in my future career.

When I am not in class or don’t have my nose in a textbook I enjoy spending time with my boys Marcus and Bruno, who are spoiled rotten Chihuahuas. I also enjoy going to the movies or taking a Zumba class at the gym.

Thanks, as always to NC State for letting us share these wonderful stories about women in science.  Stay tuned next week to be introduced to another science role model for girls!

Photo courtesy of Danisha Garner

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