High-ranking USDA-NIFA officer to lead K-State’s Food Science Institute
Jeanette Thurston brings reputation for advancing science, strategy and staff
Jan. 15, 2018
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Jeanette Thurston has been selected to lead Kansas State University’s Food Science Institute, beginning June 17.
For the last 10 years, Thurston has held positions of increasing responsibility at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, advancing basic and applied research, education, extension and strategy in the area of food safety.
“Dr. Thurston comes to us with a great reputation as a national leader, problem solver and innovator,” said Ernie Minton, the interim dean of the College of Agriculture and interim director of K-State Research and Extension. “Her impressive work at NIFA demonstrates that she is adept at working with a wide array of stakeholders while driving strategy for a large organization and diligently advancing food science and safety. We think she meets and will raise our world-class standards for K-State’s Food Science Institute.”
The institute was established in 2001 to integrate expertise in food science across the university. FSI facilitates undergraduate, graduate and online education programs and provides both research and technical assistance for food industries. Nearly 50 nationally and internationally recognized faculty from five colleges and 11 departments serve as teachers, mentors, researchers, and extension specialists in the areas of food chemistry, food microbiology, food safety, veterinary medicine, cereal science, dairy science, meat science, food service, sensory analysis, food engineering, human nutrition, and product development.
Thurston holds a Ph.D. in soil, water and environmental science and microbiology, a master’s in environmental science, and bachelor’s in microbiology – all from the University of Arizona.
For the last three years, she has served as NIFA’s science program officer. Among her responsibilities are serving as the champion for NIFA’s science portfolio, providing strategic support and counsel to top leadership regarding the agency’s science programs and helping develop and execute an annual budget of roughly $1.5 billion.
From 2009-2015, Thurston was a national program leader for food safety at NIFA, leading science programs and serving as a liaison to land-grant and other universities, national laboratories, industry partners, federal agencies and other stakeholders.
She began her career as a research microbiologist with the Agricultural Research Service where she established and managed a public-health microbiology research lab on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“I’m thrilled to be joining KSU’s College of Agriculture as the Food Science Institute director this summer,” Thurston said. “The Food Science Institute team is a phenomenal team of nationally- and internationally-respected scientists who provide world-class education, extension and research programs, and food-system solutions to industries, communities and individuals.
“I am looking forward to helping this team continue meeting and advancing the FSI mission of developing and promoting sustainable food systems that are necessary for human well-being, community development, and food industry competitiveness in the U.S., Kansas, the Great Plains and similar regions worldwide through integrated education, research and extension.”