Moving across the country to Chicago to become the 2021 – 2022 Dave Theno Food Safety Fellow at Stop Foodborne Illness (STOP) was one of the best decisions I have made. At STOP, I am learning invaluable lessons, gaining experiences that are not easily accessible to young professionals, and being wholeheartedly supported in my goals.
Before I became STOP’s Fellow, I was immersed in my microbiology degree and research. Learning in-depth, about food pathogens and how they worked, I developed a strong scientific background in the field of food microbiology.
However, it was not until I began my Fellowship that I understood the true severity and impact of these microbes. Every day, I’m seeing the heart-breaking stories of our constituents and their families. These stories remind me of the importance of what microbiologists do, as well as what organizations like STOP do, and motivate me to continue working on improving food safety to prevent foodborne illness and death. Additionally, we are tasked with the important responsibility of amplifying the voices of those impacted by contaminated food and making sure that their message is heard. Through my Fellowship, I am gaining valuable perspectives from passionate constituents, scientific experts, industry partners, and government agencies while working as a valued member of the STOP team.
Since high school, my life goal has been to improve overall public health by reducing preventable illnesses. To do this effectively, I realized early on that I would not only require a strong educational background, but I would also need contacts and experience in the field of public health. As the Dave Theno Fellow, I have been able to work towards this goal by taking opportunities to expand my professional network and participate in interesting meetings with the FDA, CDC, FSIS, and consumer advocacy groups. Through these contacts and experiences I continue to learn more about food safety regulations and how policy changes occur.
During my Fellowship, I am also participating in Michigan State University’s Online Food Safety Program. I am excitedly studying topics such as foodborne disease epidemiology and evolution of foodborne pathogens. Diving into these topics has allowed me to better connect my previous education with the work I do at STOP.
While I have observed the work of others and strengthened my own food safety education, I have also had the chance to further STOP’s mission by getting involved and making contributions of my own. For instance, I am leading my own project on Salmonella serovars to support STOP’s commitment to reducing Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry.
I would recommend the Dave Theno Food Safety Fellowship to those who are interested in melding their knowledge and education with their desires to make a difference in the world. You will be learning more about food safety AND be involved in making food safer!
Under the mentorship of Dr. Kendra Nightingale, Nidhi began doing food safety research at Texas Tech’s International Center for Food Industry Excellence. Her projects focused on probiotics, biosanitizer effectivity, serotype assay development, and antibiotic resistance surveillance. Through research, Nidhi’s interest in foodborne illness and food microbiology grew.
As the 2021 David Theno Food Safety Fellow, Nidhi is developing her own research project, with STOP’s assistance, and completing coursework for the Michigan State University Online Food Safety Certificate. Nidhi’s future plans include pursuing infectious disease medicine with an eye towards improving public health, by reducing preventable illness.
A lifelong learner, Nidhi enjoys researching and learning about a diverse range of topics such as aviation, about which she has gained a great deal of knowledge through watching documentaries. Having recently picked up birdwatching, Nidhi loves identifying birds and sketching them. She also won’t turn down an opportunity to spend time in a thrift store.
As the voice of people affected by foodborne illness, we collaborate with partners in academia, the food industry, and government to prevent foodborne illness. We advocate for effective food safety policy and facilitate culture change to increase food safety.