UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A faculty team in Penn State's Department of Food Science is offering a novel microbiology workshop in June and July to visiting college students from around the Commonwealth and Puerto Rico.
The workshop, hosted by the College of Agricultural Sciences, will include nine students from seven Pennsylvania institutions — Gettysburg College, Juniata College, Lafayette College, La Roche College, Mount Aloysius College, Saint Vincent College and Shippensburg University — and five students from the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez.
The workshop is intended to strengthen partnerships between Penn State and undergraduate-focused colleges and universities, according to team leader Ed Dudley, associate professor of food science. The program will train promising undergraduate students in laboratory and communication skills in the context of food-microbiology issues that affect their daily lives.
"The visiting students will work in our laboratories focusing on a variety of projects related to food safety, foodborne illness, and disease-causing pathogens and microbes," he said. "We deliberately included many collaborators who do not have research facilities at their institutions. The visiting students will benefit greatly from being exposed to this kind of technology."
Participating students will receive a modest stipend, housing and meal plan, and students from Puerto Rico will have their travel expenses paid. The financial aid is needed to remove barriers to participation for students from lower income brackets, Dudley pointed out.
The students are invited to return to Penn State during the summer of 2019 for the second session of the workshop, and they will meet monthly with workshop instructors online between sessions. Students will be assigned activities related to the workshop between sessions to perform at their home institutions.
Learning opportunities related to the workshop will not be simply a continuation of summer research but will need to be tailored to available resources, Dudley explained, such as participating students designing a lecture for their peers based upon their work at Penn State, designing a module for a laboratory course, and/or creating a blog or other online content discussing food microbiology for lay audiences.
"This workshop will embrace a dramatic shift in undergraduate science education that is needed to better prepare young learners for careers in the sciences," he said. "Old-school lecture style and canned labs are frustrating, not engaging, ineffective and uninteresting. Students should work with real data to learn to deal with ambiguity and learn that science can be messy."
Where better to conduct the workshop than Penn State's Department of Food Science, Dudley noted, which is ranked in the top 10 worldwide in an evaluation of more than 2,800 institutions by Quacquarelli Symonds, an international higher education data-research firm.
Other Penn State team members include: Jasna Kovac, assistant professor of food science; Jonathan Campbell, assistant professor of animal science; Darrell Cockburn, assistant professor of food science; Josephine Wee, assistant professor of food science; Chris Sigler, food science instructor and academic adviser; and Kathy Lou Jackson, research project manager.