Getting to Know Aliyar Fouladkhah April 2018

Aliyar FouladkhahThere are a lot of similarities between preparation to play a musical number and successfully presenting scientific research findings,” says Aliyar Fouladkhah, amateur pianist and assistant professor at Tennessee State University, Nashville. “Both require years of preparation, discipline and hard work, and meticulous attention to details.”

As the founder and director of the Public Health Microbiology laboratory at Tennessee State, Fouladkhah brings all of the aforementioned qualities to his day-to-day work, which has earned him recognition at recent food conferences at Harvard and Yale, as well as funding from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to develop a curriculum for a new degree in microbial food safety and foodborne diseases epidemiology. “My program also established the Tennessee Food Safety Outreach Scholarship,” says Fouladkhah, “a program that has so far supported 17 low-income small farmers receiv[ing] food safety training and certification.”

Fouladkhah’s commitment to public health and education began early in his career. As a volunteer with the Rocky Mountain section, he recalls the gratifying experience of working on an annual suppliers’ night in which “savings that we obtained from the program funded several scholarships for student awardees, some of them attending national IFT for the first time.”

Fouladkhah currently serves as president of the Tennessee (Volunteer) section where, most recently, he says, “we had a chance to organize a statewide research competition for food science students.” He has also served as an exam item writer and reviewer for IFT’s Certified Food Scientist program and chair of the Food Microbiology track for the Annual Meeting Scientific Program Advisory Panel. In addition, he’s served as competition judge and abstract and session proposal reviewer.

As a teacher, says Fouladkhah, “I learned that perhaps the only pleasure in professional life more gratifying than personal achievements is observing the success of mentees and advisees.” Watching advisees of the Public Health Microbiology program rise to new heights of success, including receiving Tennessee State’s first IFT Feeding Tomorrow Scholarship in 2017, has been a recent highlight, in addition to the ongoing satisfaction of “seeing advisees becoming confident young men and women, watching their independence in laboratory work, and knowing that they are making a foundation for the remainder of their professional careers.”

When it comes to the challenges that lie ahead for the field of food science, Fouladkhah finds much to be excited about. “I am really proud to know that, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the progress food scientists [have made in] the development of safer and healthier foods has been one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century.” Looking to the future, he sees numerous opportunities for continued advancements—in food safety, health, and sustainability. “It is unequivocal for me,” he says, “that the food science community will require extensive innovative solutions and cutting-edge technologies for years to come.”

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