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Greetings from Food Science and Human Nutrition

February 19, 2014

Greetings from Food Science and Human Nutrition!

I am writing this newsletter in the middle of a snowstorm during one of the coldest winters in Michigan that I can remember. The “spring” semester seems like a misnomer indeed!

I continue to be amazed and excited by the terrific productivity of our faculty and staff, and the excellence of our students. This was borne out by a recent metrics-based self-study that was designed to objectively evaluate the quality of our teaching, research and outreach programs.

Here are a few excerpts:

  • Metrics indicate that the MSU dietetics program is one of the highest rated programs in the country. One of these metrics is the dietetics internship placement rate. Graduates from dietetics programs nationwide must complete a dietetics internship before they can be registered to practice their profession. Nationally, dietetics internship placement rates are about 50 percent. The dietetics internship placement rate for MSU is over 90 percent.
  • The number of students majoring in food science grew from 95 in 2008 to 125 in 2013. For freshmen entering our program, the average time to completion for a bachelor of science degree with an FSC major has been an impressive four years. Food science programs are tailored to meet various stakeholders’ needs.  For example, the Michigan fermented beverage industry needed trained personnel. The department responded by offering a beverage science specialization.  Because our food science program is so well-aligned with the food industry needs, more than 90 percent of our graduates have jobs in the food science field.
  • We estimate that approximately 50 percent of nutritional sciences graduates have been admitted to a health professional school or a graduate school, with a master’s of public health program leading the list of graduate programs selected. 
  • As of fall 2013, there were 50 graduate students in our program; of these, 18 are pursuing  master’s degrees and 32 are pursuing doctoral degrees. We have experienced about a 35 percent growth over the past five years.  Our graduate programs attract both domestic and international students.  Currently 28 of our graduate students are international students, representing 15 countries.  Of these students, 94 percent are funded through faculty grants such as NIH, USDA, USAID and BHEARD; foundations  including the MasterCard Foundation;  other government agencies; and departmental assistantships and other endowments.
  • Department faculty members have demonstrated a continued upward trajectory in securing funding for research projects.  Since 2007, the number of proposals funded has increased by 47 percent, leading to a three-fold increase in research dollars -- from $1,309,394 in 2008 to $3,837,993 in 2013. Data from Academics Analytics demonstrate that, compared with 52 peer departments, our department enjoys an 80th percentile ranking for total grant dollars and 100th percentile (best in class) for number of faculty members with grants and total numbers of grants.
  • Research faculty members in FSHN publish on average at least two manuscripts per year; many faculty members exceed this average.  The number of citations of publications by FSHN faculty members has increased dramatically in the past five years. Data from Academics Analytics demonstrate that, when compared with 52 peer departments, FSHN at MSU is in the 80th percentile for total citations, the 95th percentile for number of authors with a citation and the 100th percentile (best in class) for percentage of authors with a citation.
  • A particular department area of outreach emphasis is food safety training. Food safety is a global concern, and global companies are pleased with the international food safety work performed by our faculty members. Indeed, in the past six years, international food safety outreach work has been supported by grants exceeding $6 million. For example, the USDA recently funded a $2 million fresh-cut produce project with emphasis on outreach. Also, a $543,000 USDA NIFA grant focused on development of standardized food safety education and training material, disseminated as open educational resources.

I hope that this newsletter demonstrates that FSHN is a national leader in addressing three critically important interconnected societal issues: food, nutrition and health. Our faculty members, academic and support staff members, and students are passionate about our mission and proud of the contributions we have been able to make thus far, and we have many new ideas about how food and nutrition can contribute to improve the health of all people.

Fred Derksen
Chair, Food Science & Human Nutrition


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