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Oscar Galagarza (Class of '17) in the Aquaculture Research Lab

The department offers a graduate program leading to a doctoral degree that is built around courses in food science and technology, supported by courses in chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, mathematics, statistics, engineering, and biology. Individual graduate programs are planned with the advisor to prepare students for opportunities in industry, academia, and government. On a limited basis, selected students can complete a Ph.D. program without earning a Master's degree. 

Faculty members currently recruiting Ph.D. students

  • Bio Item
    Rachel Cheng , bio

    Assistant Professor: Food Microbiology, Food Safety, Foodborne Illness Virulence and Disease Severity, Host-Pathogen Interactions of Foodborne Pathogens

  • Bio Item
    Yifan Cheng , bio

    Assistant Professor: Food Packaging, Food Process Engineering, Food Safety, Antimicrobial Nanostructures for Food Contact Surfaces, Intelligent Packaging

  • Bio Item
    Haibo Huang , bio

    Associate Professor: Food Processing, Fermentation Engineering, Process Simulation and Economic Analysis

  • Bio Item
    David Kuhn , bio

    Associate Professor: Seafood Quality, Seafood Safety, Aquaculture Research and Outreach programs

  • Bio Item
    Jacob Lahne , bio

    Associate Professor: Sensory Evaluation

  • Bio Item
    Monica Ponder , bio

    Professor: Microbiology

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Program Coursework

The departmental course/credit requirements for the Ph.D. degree in Life Sciences (Food Science & Technology) include completion of at least 90 graduate credits, composed of the following: 

  • at least 30 (max. of 60) credits of Research and Dissertation (FST 7994) 
  • at least 27 credits of 5000 level courses 
  • at least 3 (maximum of 4) credits in Graduate Seminar (FST 5004) 
  • a maximum of 6 credits of 4000 level courses 
  • a maximum of 12 credits of Special Study or Independent Study

The 5000 level courses must include at least 9 credits of FST department courses. Additionally a 5000 level biochemistry course (typically BCHM 5124) and two 5000 level statistics course (typically STAT 5605 & 5606, or 5615 & 5616) and our Graduate Professionalism in Food Science course (FST 5054) are required. Graduate students will need to complete the following courses (or an equivalent) if they were part of their previous degree program:

  • Food Chemistry (FST 4504)
  • Food Microbiology or Advances in Food Micro (FST 3604 or 5604)
  • Food Processing (FST 4304) or Food Safety and Quality Assurance (FST 4524)

"The food science training and lessons learned navigating the path to a doctoral degree provided me with the technical knowledge base and instilled the sense of resiliency and leadership that I use every day to embrace the challenge of constant change while remaining focused on the goal – a safe, affordable, and nutritious food supply."


Dr. Jodi Williams

Alumna and Food Safety National Program Leader at the USDA NIFA


Areas of Dissertation Research

  • Advance aquaculture technologies used for producing freshwater and marine seafood

  • Enhance the quality of aquaculture-produced seafood to feed the growing demand and expanding populations

  • Develop Artificial Intelligence-based platform, bioprocessing, and fermentation for cellular agriculture

  • Develop and characterize cell lines for cellular agriculture

  • Discover novel plant-based scaffold for whole cut fish development using Bioprinting

  • Develop interventions and educational programs to empower food handlers to use safer practices

  • Develop and evaluate vineyard and orchard management, fermentation, and processing practices used in wine and hard cider production

  • Determine brewing quality of Virginia grown barley and hops

  • Understand basic molecular reactions, flavor chemistry, food composition, component interactions, and physical properties of food systems

  • Apply and characterize changes in food quality attributes, such as texture, color, flavor, and nutrition

  • Characterize nano-, micro- and macro-scale molecular changes that influence food structure

  • Develop new methods to process food products safely through thermal and aseptic processing; dehydration, and modified atmosphere packaging

  • Use nondestructive evaluation methods to characterize food components

  • Observe how food packaging affects the characteristics of the food

  • Create new methods and unit processes for food processing and packaging

  • Develop nanospike-enabled antimicrobial food contact surfaces (e.g., stainless steel countertop, packaging materials)

  • AI/ML-aided material design and discovery to improve barrier properties of food packaging

  • Immobilizing lactase (or cascades of enzymes) on filtration membranes for upcycling the lactose in acid whey

  • Fabrication of affordable gas sensors for monitoring food spoilage inside primary food packaging (i.e., intelligent packaging)

  • Examine the role of sub-lethal stresses encountered during food processing on the survival, persistence, and virulence of food-borne pathogens

  • Develop interventions to prevent food contamination by food-borne pathogens and improve recovery during pre-harvest, post-harvest, and food preparation

  • Examine the effect of functional foods on the microbial ecology of gastrointestinal and food systems

  • Discover novel antimicrobial compounds, extracted from natural sources, to reduce pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms in foods

  • Characterize virulence factors and their role in disease severity

  • Utilize genomic and transcriptomic approaches to understand host-pathogen interactions of food-borne pathogens

  • Use pre- and pro-biotics to improve health including gut metabolism reduction inflammation, inhibiting pathogens, and stimulation of gut microbial activity

  • Understand the influence of food and beverage fermentation processes on product quality and composition of bioactive compounds

  • Analytically assess bioactive components and how they work emphasizing chemistry and biochemistry

  • Characterize the influence of dietary compounds on cancer-induced taste disorders

  • Flavor and texture development in products of cellular agriculture

  • Development of nutritions snack formulations for developing countries