ELN Recipients 2019

Emerging Leaders Network Award

A group of IFT Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) award recipients are selected each year based on their demonstrating a high potential for success in leadership roles and a strong commitment to the profession.

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Akshay Kumar Anugu, Ph.D. 
Bicheng Wu, Ph.D. 
Diane M Schmitt, Ph.D. 
Jean Pankuku, Ph.D. 
Rosalee Hellberg, PhD 
Emily Golan 
Sarah Ardanuy Johnson, Ph.D., RDN
Poulson Joseph, Ph.D.
Tawanda Muzhingi, Ph.D. 
Megan Torline 

Meet the 2020 ELN Award Recipients

Courtney Gwinn, Griffith Foods

Courtney Gwinn is a Senior Food Scientist at Griffith Foods. Griffith Foods is a product development partner specializing in food ingredients. Courtney is responsible for developing snack seasonings and actively contributes to the company’s health and nutrition efforts. Griffith Foods and Courtney are driven by the purpose – To Blend Care and Creativity to Nourish the World. Prior to her career at Griffith Foods, Courtney received her BS in Food Science from Purdue University in 2013. Courtney is actively involved in the Chicago Section of IFT. Currently, she is serving as Chair-Elect & Program Chair of the Section and will start her role as Chair in September 2020. Previously, she was a member of the Executive Committee and Chair of the Membership Committee for 3 years. Courtney received the first annual New Member Award, which recognized her extraordinary volunteer service within the first 5 years of membership.

Ghadeer Makki, M.S., MPS, Fairlife, LLC

Ghadeer Makki currently works as a Research Scientist with Fairlife, LLC, focusing on dairy fermentation research and process/ product optimisation projects. She holds a masters of science degree in dairy science and a masters of professional studies in food science from Cornell University. Through her Graduate Programs, she worked in Professor Sam Alcaine & Professor Olga Padilla-Zakour’s research groups at Cornell University. She also holds a Bachelors of Pharmacy Degree from Ain Shams University, Egypt. Ghadeer is part of the leadership team for the product development division of IFT where she served as student representative and is still involved. Prior to her time at Cornell, Ghadeer held various positions in product development and quality assurance in multi-national food companies, fostering her passion for food science.

Shintaro Pang, Ph.D., General Mills

Shintaro Pang is a Senior R&D Scientist at General Mills in Golden Valley, MN. He received his BS in food science from Brigham Young University in 2012 and PhD in food science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2016. In his current role, he leverages his food science knowledge to execute the commercialization of Natural & Organic Bars, Granola and Cereal. He is passionate about developing innovative solutions that enable the production of safe, high-quality foods. He has a wide variety of past research experience including the development of refrigerated canned dough products for the Pillsbury brand, new analytical methods (i.e. aptamer-based SERS) to detect food contaminants, and measuring the stability of micronutrients in food. He has also published 18 papers in reputable scientific journals with over 600 citations, and serves as a scientific reviewer to several food science journals.

Minqi Wang, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Amherst

Minqi Wang is a food scientist, entrepreneur, musician, and registered yoga teacher. After graduating with Ph.D. in 2016 at UMass Amherst, Minqi started post-doc when she found her passion in entrepreneurship. She founded her first start-up Vegeply in 2019, producing tasty snacks and beverages containing 100% daily value of natural-source vitamin B12 for plant-based dieters. In 2020, She received NSF I-Corps Award to support Nutriply, a start-up commercializing an encapsulation technology developed at Dr. McClements’ lab at UMass. Currently, Minqi serves as the chair of IFT nutrition division. She is also a regular reviewer for major journals and conferences on food science.

Shantrell Willis, Ph.D., Alabama A&M University

Shantrell Willis obtained her Bachelors, Masters and Ph.D. in Food Science with a concentration in Nutritional Biochemistry, from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University (AAMU). Originally from Manchester, GA, she currently serves as a Research Scientist and Adjunct Food Science Faculty at her alma mater, Shantrell has been intensely involved in IFT at the local, regional and nation levels. Shantrell is a past recipient of the IFTSA Excellence in Leadership Award (Graduate). In addition to serving as a Staff Advisor of the AAMU Chapter of IFTSA, Shantrell is a Director-At-Large of the IFT South Eastern Section (in which she was named an Outstanding Volunteer) and is a current member of the IFT New Professional Work Group. In her current professional role, Shantrell has a passion for advancing the profession through researching phytochemicals and how they may prevent chronic diseases.

Meet the 2019 ELN Award Recipients

Oluwafemi Ayodeji Adebo, Ph.D., University of Johannesburg 

Oluwafemi Adebo is a lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. He received his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Johannesburg before joining the faculty in late 2018. Adebo is passionate about the science of food, particularly related to the improvement of traditional processes to address hunger and malnutrition, and the search for solutions to the challenges of food insecurity. He actively collaborates with other researchers in this regard and also mentors younger students. Adebo is the recipient of various awards, has published in scientific journals, and has contributed to book chapters. He is a regular volunteer for activities that promote the food science and technology profession and currently is involved in teaching, research, and community engagement initiatives at the University of Johannesburg. 

Jennifer Elegbede, Ph.D.  

Jennifer Elegbede found food science as a high school student through her participation in the Research Apprentice Program at the University of Illinois. She received her BS from the University of Illinois, MS from Alabama A&M University, and PhD from Purdue University. Her research has primarily focused on functional foods and polyphenol interactions within model food systems while also determining the effects on bioaccessibility. During her career, she has had the opportunity to develop an assortment of products for both retail and foodservice and has co-led the commissioning of a new potato processing facility. At Kellogg, she has led work on early innovation projects for brands such as Kashi Go and the newly launched Hi! Happy Inside, developed course material for the Kellogg Academy, and managed successful external partnerships. Her passion for the field of food science is evident through her desire to share her skills and the profession with others through mentoring and volunteering. A few of her experiences include participating in the CRS Farmer-to-Farmer program, where she led product development and capacity-building training in Nairobi, Kenya; leading events to increase under-represented individuals’ participation in S.T.E.A.M; and mentoring local university students. 

Jeffrey Swada, Ph.D., Michigan State University 

Jeffrey Swada has had to overcome many challenges to become successful as a student and in his professional career. Throughout his journey, Swada, who is legally blind, was fortunate to have the guidance and support of faculty and advisors to help him reach his full potential. It is his goal as an instructor, advisor, and the director of food science at Michigan State University to continue helping students reach their full potential, just as others have helped him. As W. B. Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Swada strives not only to teach students but to provide them with the necessary skills and resources to learn and to ignite their passion for learning in the courses they take and as they continue to grow and pursue their chosen careers. 

Katherine Wilkes, Walmart US 

Kate Wilkes is a product developer at Walmart US in Bentonville, Ark. She is currently applying her background in carbohydrates to the work of the Private Brands Baking and Commodities team. Her food industry experience encompasses production quality, nutrition advocacy, ingredient technology, and foodservice. Wilkes received her MS in food science from the University of Arkansas in 2017 and her BS in food science from Purdue University in 2015. 

Claire Zoellner, Ph.D., iFoodDecisionSciences, Inc 

Claire Zoellner is a food safety scientist at iFoodDecisionSciences, a provider of food safety and process control data management software and analytics. She manages research aimed at developing and delivering pragmatic, science-based tools for the food industry to leverage data in making food safety decisions. Her research integrates microbial contamination data with simulation and risk assessment models to yield actionable information for fresh produce supply chains and food manufacturers to manage food safety risks in production environments. Prior to her employment at iFoodDS, Zoellner received a BS in food science and human nutrition from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a PhD in food science and technology with minors in epidemiology and systems engineering from Cornell University. She also completed a postdoctoral research appointment under Renata Ivanek and Martin Wiedmann at Cornell. Zoellner is active in Phi Tau Sigma and a member of IFT and the International Association for Food Protection.

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