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Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center

Student research focuses on making food safer

Pushpinder Litt, a food science doctoral student, is conducting research that focuses on controlling foodborne pathogens using phages, which are viruses that penetrate and kill bacteria but are harmless to humans, plants and animals.

By Melanie Jackson, FAPC Communications Graduate Assistant

(Stillwater, Okla. – June 21, 2017) An Oklahoma State University Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center graduate student is working to control bad bacteria in food.

Pushpinder Litt, a food science doctoral student, is conducting research that focuses on controlling foodborne pathogens using phages, which are viruses that penetrate and kill bacteria but are harmless to humans, plants and animals.

“In my research we have isolated those phages from environmental samples,” Litt said. “Now we have made a product that we are using to control these bad bacteria in food products, like fresh produce or even food-contact services.”

Litt said this research, along with her experiences at FAPC, have prepared her for a future career in the food industry.

“After completing my Ph.D., I am planning to pursue a career in food safety by developing practical, feasible and effective methods to control foodborne pathogens,” she said. “As a food microbiologist, I plan to work and contribute toward the benefit of the food industry and the community.”

Litt was recently honored for her dissertation research.

She received a 2017 Women’s Faculty Council Student Research Award. In addition, she is a recipient of a 2017 Summer Dissertation Fellowship, which includes a $6,000 stipend and a three-hour tuition waiver for a summer course.

“There are no words to express my gratitude for these recognitions,” Litt said. “I intend to work hard to maintain and improve upon my current record, and strive to become a contributing and forthright member of society.”

Divya Jaroni, FAPC food microbiologist, serves as Litt’s academic adviser.

“Pushpinder is an outstanding student due to her dedication to food safety research and scholarly contributions to the food science discipline,” Jaroni said. “She is a highly motivated and hard-working individual who is always eager to learn about and contribute towards new and emerging food safety issues. Pushpinder has shown tremendous initiative in carrying out and completing several food microbiology-related research projects in her graduate program, and I am very pleased to have her as a graduate student.”

FAPC, a part of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, is celebrating its 20-year anniversary in 2017. Since its inception in January 1997, the center’s research laboratories, pilot-processing facilities, educational programs and seminars have kept food and agricultural processors and entrepreneurs on the forefront of cutting-edge value-added processing and technology.

“I feel lucky and it’s a pleasure working here in the building, in the institute, which has been contributing to Oklahoma food producers for 20 years,” Litt said.

For more information about Litt and her time at FAPC, view the Faces of FAPC video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vns-P6lZcBA&feature=youtu.be.

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Oklahoma State University is a modern land-grant university that prepares students for success. OSU has more than 36,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 25,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses, with students from all 50 states and around 120 nations. Established in 1890, Oklahoma State has graduated more than 260,000 students who have been serving Oklahoma and the world for 125 years.