Three Questions with Francisco Diez-Gonzalez
The new head of the Department of Food Science and Nutrition
What's surprised you the most about becoming a department head?
In the almost two months in this position there were a couple of items that surprised me the most, from one side, a very new and refreshing view of the academic endeavor and, at the same time, the realization that despite being here for more than 15 years, I have a lot to learn about my own department.
What's been the most fun so far?
Engaging in a series of group and individual listening sessions in which I have been discovering the passion and enthusiasm of our faculty and staff for our academic programs and their scientific disciplines.
What sparked your interest in a career in food safety and microbiology?
My interest in microbiology started during my bachelor's program back in Mexico. From the moment that I took the first microbiology class at the Monterrey Institute of Technology, I was fascinated by those small living beings that we call microorganisms. Eventually, my interest in microbiology took me back to graduate school after seven years working in R&D in a food ingredients company. My passion for food safety came a little later in my career during my post-doc at Cornell University when I worked with Escherichia coli O157. At the time, this bacterium had just recently emerged as an important foodborne pathogen. The University of Minnesota offered me an opportunity to become a productive scholar studying the ecology and control of pathogenic bacteria.
Bonus question: Have you ever gotten sick from bad food, and if so, what had you eaten?
It has been a while since the last time that I got foodborne disease in my adult life, but I do remember growing up in Mexico, when foodborne disease was seen as part of life, almost like catching a cold. I must have gotten at least one episode of food poisoning every year when I was a kid. I believe that one of the main differences in food safety culture between developed and developing countries is that in the former food poisoning is unacceptable and the society expects that it is prevented.