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Rachel Cheng

Assistant Professor
Rachel Alessandra Cheng
401-E HABB1 (0924)
1230 Washington Street SW
Blacksburg, VA 24061


  • Ph.D., Food Science, Cornell University, 2017
  • B.S., Food Science, Oregon State University, 2012
  • B.S., Microbiology, Oregon State University, 2012

Professional Appointments

2022 - Present: Assistant Professor, Department of Food Science and Technology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA

2017 – 2022: Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY


  • Food Microbiology
  • Bacterial Pathogenesis
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Food Safety
  • Salmonella
  • Bacillus cereus


My research seeks to understand the diversity of strategies that foodborne pathogens use to colonize and cause disease in a variety of hosts. The overall goal of my research is to identify specific adaptations that make a pathogen more (or less) likely to cause disease to ultimately inform targeted intervention strategies to mitigate morbidity and mortality associated with foodborne disease.

Specific areas of investigation include:

  1. Assessment of the role of bacterial toxins in disease severity and outcome
  2. Identification of genetic adaptations associated with bacterial pathogens overrepresented among specific hosts and environments
  3. Genomic and transcriptomic characterization of understudied foodborne pathogens
  4. Genetic and phenotypic characterization of bacterial surface antigen genes for improving in silico typing methods
  5. Identification and validation of commodity-specific interventions for reducing pathogen prevalence