UMass Amherst College of NRE

 

 

April 24, 2002

Dr. F.M. Clydesdale

Professor and Department Head

Department of Food Science

Chenowith Laboratoy

University of Massachusetts

Amherst, MA 01003-9285

Dear Ferg:

Enclosed please find a copy of the review team report as part of the AQAD review of the Food Science Department at UMass. On behalf of the review team, we appreciated your hospitality and consideration during our visit earlier this month. The department was well prepared for an efficient review, and everything went smoothly. We particularly appreciated the thorough program self-assessment document provided in advance of our visit. Please do not hesitate to contact me or one of the other review team members if you have questions about the content of the enclosed review.

Sincerely,

 

Donald B. Thompson

Professor of Food Science, and

chairman of the review team

 

encl: Review Document

cc: C.W. Donnelley, J.B. German, review team members

Cleve Willis, Dean

Charlena Seymour, Provost


 

REVIEW TEAM MEMBERS

Dr. Catherine W. Donnelly

Professor

University of Vermont

Department of Nutrition and Food Science

200 Carrigan Hall

Burlington, VT 05405

TEL: (802) 656-8300

FAX: (802) 656-0407

Email: [CWDadrs14p.jpg]

 

Dr. J. Bruce German

John E. Kinsella Endowed Chair in Food Nutrition & Health

Department of Food Science and Technology

University of California/Davis

Davis, CA 95616

TEL: (530) 752-1486

FAX: (530) 752-4759

Email: [JBGadrs14p.jpg]

 

Dr. Donald B. Thompson (Chair)

Professor

Pennsylvania State University

Department of Food Science

111 Borland Laboratory

University Park, PA 16802

TEL: (814) 863-0481

FAX: (814) 863-6132

Email: [DBTadrs14p.jpg]


 

 

 

 

 

 

AQAD Review

of the

University of Massachusetts

Food Science Department

 

 

 

 

 

Review Conducted on

April 4-5, 2002

 

 

 

 

 

Review Team:

Catherine W. Donnelly

J. Bruce German

Donald B. Thompson, Chair

 

 

Report submitted on April 24, 2002

 

 

 

 

 

Preface

The committee would like to compliment the UMass Department of Food Science as a highly respected academic unit with a long and successful tradition as one of the leading centers of food science research in the world. The program is a center of active research and knowledge, and competes unusually well against other food science departments for both federal and industrial grants and contracts. The chair, the faculty and the entire program should be complimented for their contributions to this institution and to food science.

The committee notes that the UMass Department of Food Science has expressed the goal of being the top department of food science in the U.S. in its chosen areas of emphasis. Our review was performed with this goal in mind.

 

Executive Summary

General Comments

The Food Science Department at UMass is a well structured, highly efficient, teaching, research and outreach department. Despite limitations of program size and resources, the group continues to do state-of—the-art research in food science. Based on expertise in selected research areas, the faculty has an international reputation in research. However, the size of the faculty is small and probably just reaches a critical mass; thus any losses in faculty numbers could disproportionately affect the efficiency and productivity of the group. Moreover, to ensure the long-term stability and success of the program, we recommend that the hiring of the named professor be expedited.

Points of Emphasis

  1. The department has established well conceived strategic research priorities in Food Safety, Physicochemical Properties of Food, Food Biotechnology,and Health and Wellness.
  2. Present and future success is and will be the result of its unique, highly visible, and remarkably productive faculty and its leadership.
  3. Much of the success and future potential of the department is the result of an unusually collegial and collaborative environment in which faculty members with shared interests and complementary skills work together towards common goals.
  4. The number of faculty members is just sufficient for critical mass, and each faculty member contributes significantly to all of the pillars of the department: teaching, research, and outreach.
  5. An unusually large proportion of the operating support for the department is raised by the department through external funding sources.
  6. The strategic research alliance is a model for the way that an academic department can interface with its constituency. This alliance is currently a funding mechanism for purchase of new research equipment, and this capability has been central to research productivity. In addition, the committee was particularly impressed with the success in attracting leading industrial participants, and with the presentation of the vision of this alliance and its implications to the UMass Administration.
  7. The department maintains a viable undergraduate teaching program serving the students and food industry very well. The students are highly competitive with their national peers both for industrial and academic careers.
  8. The department’s graduate program is well integrated with the strategic emphasis areas, and the graduate students gain significant advantage from the collaborative environment.
  9. The success of the faculty in obtaining competitive grants and contracts supports the graduate students financially. The committee recognized the opportunity for the department to increase its visibility in order to attract a greater number and greater diversity of domestic and international candidates to its graduate programs.
  10. The faculty values outreach activities and provides a model for other departments in how to achieve close interaction between scientific research and its industrial implementation.

 

Ranking of the Program

The field of food science is remarkably diverse extending from the genetics of life forms to process engineering of large biomaterial streams and most everything in between. Most departments in the nation have focused their efforts in specific areas. No single department in the world even attempts to cover the full range of the field. Therefore it is nearly impossible to objectively rank food science departments, and no mechanism to do so exists in the U.S. However, it is possible to consider the areas of emphasis for a particular department and rank these against similar areas in other departments which have focused in similar areas. With this caveat, the review committee is prepared to offer its subjective evaluation.

Even considering its small number of faculty members compared to other food science programs, the Food Science Department at UMass is among the top tier of food science departments in the nation in its areas of emphasis. Normalized to the size of the faculty, the performance and productivity is at or near the top.

 

 

 

Strategic Goal and Priorities

The stated goal of the department is bold and clear. It aspires to be the top department of Food Science in the U.S. in four strategic areas. The established focused priority areas are Food Safety, Physicochemical Properties of Food, and Food Biotechnology. It plans to establish an international reputation in a fourth area of emphasis: Health and Wellness. The committee agrees with the goals and in many respects the department is well on its way to achieving them.

The Food Safety program is successful in many areas. The long emphasis on Seafood and in particular on seafood processing is highly appropriate in this state, and there is no question in the minds of the committee that UMass has achieved International prominance in this area. It is recommended that in food safety the department build on this reputation and continue to emphasize aspects of food safety that are not well addressed by the major federal centers.

In the Food Biotechnology area, the department has addressed many projects that profit from the individual expertise of the faculty, and the real competitive success again derives from their ability to maintain active and multi-disciplinary collaborations. The efforts of this program are increasingly orchestrated around the research vision of an individual core faculty member, and we applaud the ongoing interactions that have developed around this theme of phytochemicals. The stories of success in applying scientific advances in practical industrial application are important, and they should be highlighted to better show the contribution of department programs to the economy of the state. The committee suggests that the food biotechnology group take the next logical step and compete for national funding for food biotechnology training grants.

The Physicochemical Properties of Food program has gained a strong reputation at the National and International levels. To a great extent this reputation is related to highly successful competition for Federal research funds. Faculty member programs in this area complement and support the internationally recognized polymer science program at U Mass, as the success of the department’s core faculty members in applying principles of biomaterial science to food systems augments the reputation of the polymer science center. It is recommended that the department ensure that it is being recognized for its national leadership position in the area of physicochemical properties of food and be aggressive in working to provide vision for this field. The committee was particularly struck by the collaborations among the core physicochemical properties faculty members across a wide spectrum of food science problems.

Health and Wellness could emerge as an area for which UMass would be recognized throughout the world as having taken a clear leadership role. The Food Science program at UMass has the leadership potential to build a preeminent program due to the reputation and vision of a particular individual who is well established and connected at the national level in this area. The decisions as to where the department will focus within this broad area and how it will select appropriate strategic priorities to excel should be taken over the next year. The committee remarked on the current expertise in bioactive food components (both phytochemicals and zoochemicals), and this expertise constitutes a logical platform for the future. The committee recognized the critical importance of the successful recruitment and support of a faculty member into the newly endowed chair. In this area, the committee notes that the department should develop collaborations outside of the department, as its ability to recruit leading external collaborators to their vision will be a vital key to future success at the National and International level. The committee also notes that although the Nutrition program is in the same building and might seem to be an obvious source for collaboration, the expertise of faculty members in the Nutrition program is oriented toward dietetics/behavioral science and community nutrition as distinct from nutrition science. Consequently nutrition science collaborators for the area of Health and Wellness will best be found elsewhere. Collaboration may need to be sought outside the nutrition science field, as the innovative approach to Health and Wellness may be partly outside the scope of traditional nutrition.

A fifth area of emphasis is currently being explored: the relationship between Food Science and Public Policy. There is reason to think that this area may be a viable one at UMass, but it is too soon for this review team to comment further given the early stages of the discussion.

The department faculty members have achieved remarkable success and productivity in their selected areas of emphasis. Within all four of these emphasis areas the department reputation can be national and international; however, in each there is a need to continue to focus on the specific themes and objectives appropriate to the program at UMass in order to reach and maintain genuine preeminence. In each of the areas the goals have spanned scientific expertise and practical commercial application. Moreover, the level of competitive external funding is outstanding.

 

Strategies for Maximizing Resources

The committee was struck by the productivities of the individual faculty members,but it was even more impressed by the collaborations and the multi-disciplinary nature of the research programs and the productivity of these collaborative efforts. It is very rare to find scientific departments whose faculty members are successful as individual scientists and who also participate actively in the shared objectives of the department. The Department of Food Science at UMass is a model for such success. This teamwork, and the leadership that supports and rewards it, is precisely what every state should receive from its land grant colleges, but it is rarely seen. The productivity of the faculty is magnified by the success in generating external funding.

The laboratory instrumentation is quite good for a department of this size, and this quality is a tribute to the entrepeneurial approach to generating the necessary resources. The amount of space in the building appears adequate for program needs, but the quality of the space is questionable for a top-tier program. The group seems to have accomodated itself to current budget realities; nevertheless, we encourage them to be forward thinking about how the quality of the space might be improved.

Undergraduate Education

The department maintains a small but viable undergraduate teaching program serving the students and food industry well. Emphasis is on the science rather than on food commodities. The students are highly competitive with their national peers both for industrial and academic careers. Courses in the major are exclusively taught by faculty members. The committee observed that the undergraduate catalogue includes several courses that are no longer taught, and we recommend that this unacceptable situation be resolved as soon as possible.

The faculty is remarkably committed to the education of UMass students at both the undergraduate and graduate level. The teaching loads in general education are making a significant impact on the campus programs, and yet the return to the department is unclear. It is recommended that the department consider the value returned as a result of this investment against the cost of this effort. In particular, although TAs are not responsible for the classroom teaching, the proposed reductions in the number of TAs may force a decision to cut back from the current level of faculty member involvement in teaching of general education courses.

Graduate Education

The department’s graduate program is well integrated with the strategic emphasis areas, and the graduate students gain significant advantage from the collaborative environment. The success of the faculty in obtaining competitive grants and contracts supports the graduate students financially. The ratio of Ph.D. to M.S. students is high (about 2) for a food science program, evolving from at or below 1 ten years ago. Current students seem pleased with the quality of the graduate program. The committee recognized the opportunity for the department to increase its recruitment efforts in order to attract a greater number and greater diversity of domestic and international candidates to its graduate program.

 

Industry Interactions

Industry interactions were apparent in several of the presentations about ongoing research efforts, but these interactions were often presented casually as something of an aside or an afterthought. We suspect that in-state technical transfer activites may be a strength of the department that is not fully appreciated as such. Given the current climate in the State, we suspect that these interactions would be the basis for compelling documentation of the contribution by the Department and by the University to the economy of the State. Although the research program is largely scientific discipline-focused, there is also a strong awareness of the importance of the practical application of the work.

The continuing seafood work through the Gloucester Station is an important tie beween the landlocked department and the seafood industry. The future viability of this station will warrant careful strategic discussion, to which the committee does not feel qualified to comment further at this time.

The department maintains a strong connection to the food industry at the state and national levels through the Strategic Research Alliance. In addition to generating funds for operating expenses, this mechanism keeps the lines of communication open and active.

Alumni Interactions

Alumni interactions are strong through the Food Science Advisory Board. In addition, the interactions emphasize participation of alumni who are well-placed in the food industry and therefore capable of a range of support activites.

Relationship of the Department to the UMass System

The Food Science Department is housed in the same building as the Nutrition Program. Historically both groups had been in the same department. The Nutrition Department is strong in dietetics/behavioral science and community nutrition, and correspondingly weak in the nutritional sciences. Consequently there is a poor fit with the Food Science Program, as there is little overlap or useful complementarity of expertise. In fact, in order to collaborate with the nutritional science community in the area of Health and Wellness, the food science faculty will need to look outside the UMass community.

There is an important complementary relationship between the Physicochemical Properties of Food emphasis area and the Polymer Science program at UMass.

 

Ranking of the Program

Even considering its small number of faculty members compared to other food science programs, the Food Science Department at UMass is among the top tier of food science departments in the nation in its areas of emphasis. Normalized to the size of the faculty, the performance and productivity is at or near the top.

 

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