COLUMBUS, Ohio—Ahmed E. Yousef, Distinguished Professor of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), has been named the college’s Virginia Hutchison Bazler and Frank E. Bazler Chair in Food Science.
His five-year term began Aug. 15.
Yousef, who joined the CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology (FST) as an assistant professor in 1991, has won numerous national and international awards and authored or co-authored more than 200 publications that include books, book chapters, and research papers. His research focuses on improving human health through combating emerging foodborne pathogens and making the best use of beneficial microorganisms. This research also improves food safety through discovery, invention, and implementation of new decontamination methods.
Virginia and Frank Bazler have long supported food safety efforts at CFAES. In 2007, they funded the Virginia Hutchison Bazler and Frank E. Bazler Designated Professorship in Food Science, which allowed them to make an annual gift supporting a named professor and to experience the impact of their support during their lifetimes. In 2010, they documented an estate gift that, when realized, established and endowed the Virginia Hutchison Bazler and Frank E. Bazler Chair in Food Science.
“This endowed chair will help to improve food safety for years to come by creating enduring support for research, engagement with producers, and education that will inform the next generation of food scientists,” said Melissa L. Gilliam, Ohio State’s executive vice president and provost. “We are so thankful to the Bazler family for establishing this legacy at Ohio State.”
Cathann A. Kress, Ohio State’s vice president for agricultural administration and CFAES dean, echoes that sentiment, noting the significance of this, just the 10th endowed chair position for CFAES.
“An endowed chair is one of the highest honors an academic institution can bestow upon a faculty member,” Kress said. “We are grateful for the Bazler’s support to create this endowed chair position for CFAES and excited to welcome Dr. Yousef to this position.”
In this new position, Yousef will lead a team of food scientists focused on a three-pronged approach to food safety: research to promote food safety; outreach in terms of getting the research news out to the food processing industry and informing consumers to improve food safety; and teaching the next generation of food safety scientists.
“Yousef has been recognized for his exemplary work in food safety numerous times and has the record to fulfill the vision of what this endowment is meant to be,” said Tracy Kitchel, CFAES senior associate dean and director of faculty and staff affairs.
“This $3.5 million endowment will provide resources for continued research and growth in food safety across the college, and will allow Yousef to continue to do great work,” Kitchel said. “This is a significant investment in the FST department, with broad ramifications for our college and university.”
Since joining CFAES, Yousef has led the search for natural alternatives to synthetic food preservatives. Additionally, he and his research team have developed new ways to pasteurize shell eggs and to decontaminate fresh produce while maintaining the foods’ fresh qualities, said Sheryl Barringer, professor and chair of FST.
The method developed for shell eggs, for instance, uses a combination of mild heat and pressurized ozone for pasteurization, a process that can eliminate salmonella and other pathogens inside the eggs.
Ozone is key, too, to the method developed to decontaminate fresh produce, such as spinach and apples.
In his time at CFAES, Yousef has established the largest ozone research laboratory for food decontamination in the United States, and because of his food safety expertise, he is frequently interviewed by the media on issues related to foodborne diseases and product recalls.
In his new role as Bazler chair, Yousef said he plans to focus on several issues including:
- advancing food safety based on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, now food safety and security are inseparable and should be treated this way by food microbiologists and food safety specialists. Control of bioaerosols—tiny airborne particles that are biological in nature—is one of the areas that not only protects the public against airborne diseases, but also improves food safety and security.
- emphasizing research that finds solutions to current and anticipated food safety problems. This constitutes a departure from traditional food safety research, which has been limited to problem identification.
- food safety education that advances experiential learning, and outreach that educates and enlightens.
“This lab has graduated people who are now leaders in food safety nationwide,” Yousef said. “Our goal is to continue this effort by training a new generation of researchers and educators who tackle emerging, global food safety problems.”