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05 Spotlight
Cereal Foods World, Vol. 64, No. 5
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1094/CFW-64-5-0059
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Spotlight on the NDSU Cereal Science Graduate Program

© 2019 AACC International, Inc.


This Spotlight interview features the Cereal Science graduate program at North Dakota State University, the history of the university and Department of Plant Sciences, and its relationship with the AACCI — Cereals & Grains Association. The mission of the program is to train and educate students in the discipline of cereal and grain science through research, teaching, and service. Through partnerships between government, industry, and academia and sharing knowledge and equipment resources, the program is able to optimize research efficiency to address today’s complex research objectives.

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Q: Please provide basic background information on the NDSU Cereal Science graduate program (e.g., location, size, number of employees, mission, values). How does the program’s mission contribute to our understanding of cereal science in the context of the global food system?

A: The Cereal Science graduate program is housed in the Department of Plant Sciences within the College of Agriculture, Food Systems and Natural Resources at North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND, U.S.A. NDSU is the research land-grant institution for the state of North Dakota. It was founded in 1890 and originally named North Dakota Agricultural College. Today, it consists of 10 colleges and has a total enrollment of 14,000, with 11,500 undergraduate and 2,500 graduate students.

The Department of Plant Sciences is a diverse department encompassing agronomy, plant breeding and genetics, weed science, plant physiology, horticulture, and cereal and food science. The department offers undergraduate majors in Crop and Weed Sciences, Food Science, and Horticulture; and graduate programs in Plant Science, Horticulture, and Cereal Science. The Cereal Science graduate program is closely aligned with the undergraduate Food Science program and consists of seven full-time faculty members.

Q: What is the focus of the Cereal Science graduate program? In what ways does the program bring innovation to the field of cereal chemistry? How can the work being performed shed light on the challenges and opportunities in the global food system?

A: Cereal Science is an academic program with a mission to train and educate students in the discipline of cereal and grain science through research, teaching, and service. The program focuses on technical and soft skills needed for a successful career.

Research focuses on the composition, functionality, and utilization of cereal and grains in food systems. Research activities include cultivar development, primarily focused on hard spring and winter wheats, durum wheat, barley, and pulses, and the functionality and utilization of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins in food systems. Applied research focuses on the challenges facing the grain and food industries and includes research on plant-based films, foams, and emulsions; grain milling; breadmaking; malting and brewing; pasta processing; and food safety.

Q: What are the core capabilities of the program? How many and what types of scientists does the department employ?

A: The number one industry in North Dakota is agriculture. The state is a major producer of hard red spring wheat, durum wheat, barley, rye, oats, soybeans, sunflower, canola, flaxseed, dry edible beans, pulses, and sugar beets.

Seven faculty members have expertise in agronomy, biochemistry, food chemistry, flavor chemistry, food processing, and food safety. The Cereal Science program consists of four laboratories that are fully equipped to study the grain quality and end-use quality of bread wheat, durum wheat, barley, and edible legumes. Some of the specialized equipment used in the laboratories includes an assortment of mills (roller, stone, disc, hammer, and centrifugal mills) capable of milling refined and whole grain flours; two completely equipped bake shops; rheological instruments for dough testing; several pasta-processing units; malting equipment; Asian noodle-making equipment; soy milk and tofu processing machines; a wet-processing pilot plant; a laboratory-scale UHT processing unit; an HT/ST extruder; and a microbrewery. In addition, the program maintains chemistry laboratories with specialized equipment, such as HPLC-DAD/FL, SEC-HPLC-MALS, UPLC, HPAEC, GC-MS, LC-QTOF-MS, HS-SPME-GC-MS/olfactometry, ICP-OES, a microfluidizer, and a spray-dryer, all of which are used in structural studies of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, phenolics, and other phytochemicals in food systems.

Q: Tell us about the origins of the program. When was the program in cereal science founded, and who were the key leaders who got it started? What are key milestones in the program’s growth?

A: The Cereal Science program began in the Department of Chemistry at the North Dakota Agricultural College, Fargo, in 1896 when Edwin F. Ladd first organized research on grain and breadmaking quality of wheat grown in North Dakota. Ladd was very concerned about food safety, and through his efforts, the North Dakota legislature passed the Pure Food Law to prevent adulteration, misbranding, and selling of adulterated and unwholesome foods and beverages. In 1905, the North Dakota legislature formally authorized the milling, baking, and testing program by establishing a milling and baking laboratory. In 1921, Charles E. Mangels was hired to head the newly formed Department of Milling and Baking. Rae H. Harris became the second department head in 1938. The department’s name was changed to the Department of Cereal Technology. Under his leadership, Harris established the Durum Quality Testing Program in 1938 and the Malting Barley Quality Laboratory in 1947. Graduate courses were first taught in 1950; before this time, the Cereal Chemistry master of science graduate program was associated with the Chemistry Department. Kenneth A. Gilles became the third department head in 1961 and initiated the doctoral program in Cereal Chemistry. Formal crop quality surveys were initiated for barley, durum, and hard red spring wheat. During Gilles’ tenure the department name was changed to the Department of Cereal Chemistry and Technology. Orville J. Banasik became the fourth department head in 1970. Banasik expanded the department mission by adding projects working on sunflower and edible beans and value-added research. The department name was changed to the Department of Cereal Science and Food Technology. Department faculty became more involved in trade team presentations, short courses, and international consulting work. Banasik was a strong proponent for the creation of the Northern Crops Institute, which was created in 1979 as a collaborative effort among the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana to promote, develop, and market crops grown in this region. In 1985, Bert D’Appolonia became the fifth department head and led further expansion of the department to include alternative crop utilization, milling specialist, and food engineering positions. The department name was changed to the Department of Cereal Science. Dennis Gordon was the sixth department head (1994–2000). He oversaw the move of the Food Science undergraduate program to the department and mission expansion that included a food microbiologist and a wheat quality extension specialist. In 2000, the department name was changed to the Department of Cereal and Food Sciences. In 2007, the School of Food Systems was organized, and Deland Myers was named director. In 2013, the Cereal Science graduate program and Food Science undergraduate program were moved to the Department of Plant Sciences as part of a college-wide effort to consolidate small departments and programs into larger departments. In 2015 and 2016, three new faculty members were hired, which expanded the teaching and research capabilities of the program to address plant-based ingredient technologies.

Q: In what ways has the university and graduate program collaborated with the AACCI — Cereals & Grains Association? How does the association enable the program’s work, and how does the organization support the association?

A: Cereal Science at NDSU has had a long and productive relationship with AACCI — Cereals & Grains Association. Faculty members have been and continue to be involved in various association divisions and technical committees. Five AACCI past presidents have been faculty members in the Cereal Science program, including Charles Mangels (1929); Rae Harris (1968); Kenneth Gilles (1972); Bert D’Appolonia (1985); and Khalil Khan (2010). AACCI has played an important role in training our graduate students by providing opportunities for poster and oral presentations at meetings and leadership opportunities through participation in the Student Division, Product Development Competition, and Best Student Research Paper competition.

Q: How is the university and Cereal Science graduate program engaged in government–industry–academia partnerships to enable innovation? Has it explored other innovation partnerships or collaborations?

A: Partnerships between government, industry, and academia are necessary to optimize research efficiency by sharing knowledge and equipment. The Cereal Science program has a natural working relationship with the Northern Crops Institute and the USDA-ARS Hard Red Spring and Durum Wheat Quality Laboratories, since all three groups are housed in the Harris Hall complex at NDSU. Today’s research objectives are complex and require knowledge and equipment that a single program or institution may not have.

Faculty members have been developing an internship program that involves industry and other research organizations. This has strengthened our ties with industry, government agencies, and academia and has resulted in a synergy that allows us to conduct research that otherwise would not be possible. These internships range from 1 to 6 months. The benefit to the students is quite evident, as it gives them an opportunity to work in another environment and enhance their technical and soft skills and their professional network.