Team news and accomplishments


Erik Ohman Awarded Two Scholarships

July 2022

Master’s student Erik Ohman was recently awarded the Pacific Northwest Vegetable Association Scholarship and the OSIFT Scholarship.

The Pacific Northwest Vegetable Association Scholarship is given to high school graduates, undergraduates, or graduate students studying agriculture with preference given to studies specifically related to vegetable production. This Association is dedicated to education, research, production, promotion, and representation relative to the Northwest vegetable industry and its markets.

The OSIFT scholarship is given to undergraduates and graduate students in the state of Oregon who are pursuing Food Science as a major or minor. Preference is given to students involved in IFT activities, students with strong GPAs, and enthusiasm for food science.

Jovana Kovacevic featured in Capital Press article

July 2022

Lab leader Jovana Kovacevic was recently featured in a capital press article entitled “Researcher tackles Listeria in food processing”. Within the article, Jovana’s background and the Listeria research, extension, and outreach work performed by her team are detailed.

Review the Capital Press Article here.

Photo credit: Stephen Ward, OSU

The Kovacevic Lab Welcomes Three New Graduate Students

September 2021

The Kovacevic Lab welcomed 3 new graduate students (from left to right; Eric Ohman, Taylor Johnson, and Andrea Domen) in Fall 2021, continuing a successful mentoring and co-advising collaboration with Dr. Joy Waite-Cusic on campus.

Rebecca Bland Successfully Defends her MS Thesis

September 2021

Congratulations to Rebecca Bland for successfully defending her Master’s thesis. Her project was entitled, “Genetic diversity and antimicrobial resistance of Listeria monocytogenes within produce handling environments”.

Stephanie Alvarado selected as ARCS Scholar

June 2021

Stephanie Alvarado was recently chosen as an ARCS Scholar. The ARCS Foundation advances science and technology in the United States by providing financial awards to academically outstanding U.S. citizens studying to complete degrees in science, engineering and medical research. Stephanie will receive support for the next three years in the form of financial assistance and by connecting her with other PhD students. 

Stephanie Alvarado awarded scholarship to attend the Consumer Food Safety Education Virtual Conference

March 2021

Stephanie Alvarado was recently awarded a scholarship to attend the Consumer Food Safety Education Virtual Conference (CFSEC), which was held on March 9-12, 2021. CFSEC is hosted by the Partnership for Food Safety Education and is the only conference in the U.S. that focuses on consumer food safety education ( Stephanie had the opportunity to attend oral presentations and poster sessions from leaders in the field. She was also awarded a one-on-one mentoring session with Steve Mandernach who is the Executive Director of the Association of Food and Drug Officials. Congratulations Stephanie!

Rebecca Bland Places First at the IAFP 2020 J. Mac Geopfert Developing Scientist Poster Competition

Congratulations to Rebecca Bland for placing first in the 2020 International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) J. Mac Geopfert Developing Scientist poster competition!

The title of her poster was: “Emerging and Multidrug Resistance of Listeria spp. Recovered from Produce Handling and Processing Environments”.

Rebecca is a MS student in the Kovacevic Food Safety Outreach & Research Program at the Food Innovation Center.

Western Regional Center to Enhance Food Safety receives 2020 OSU Extension Association (OSUEA) Search for Excellence Award 

Congratulations to the Western Regional Center to Enhance Food Safety (WRCEFS) for being the recipient of the 2020 OSUEA Search for Excellence Award. This award recognizes outstanding accomplishments in Extension Education. 

Led by OSU’s Dr. Kovacevic, WRCEFS is one of four U.S. regional centers that supports food safety-related training efforts in 15 states/territories in the Western U.S. It includes a collaborative network among land grant universities, non-governmental organizations and State Departments of Agriculture.


Kovacevic & collaborators receive USDA NIFA AFRI CARE funding

Dr. Jovana Kovacevic received $300,000 from the USDA NIFA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Critical Agricultural Research and Extension (CARE) program to lead a project that will help produce industry better implement cleaning and sanitizing programs to mitigate microbial risks and achieve compliance with the Produce Safety Rule. Drs. Joy Waite-Cusic and Dave Stone are collaborators on this project titled: “Cleaning and sanitizing surfaces on produce farms: optimizing what, how, and when”.

To kickoff this project, Dr. Kovacevic worked with produce associations and FDA to develop and administer a national survey. The results of the survey helped guide the development of FDA-led virtual cleaning and sanitizing workshop in Jan-Mar 2021.


Understanding sources and control of Listeria in the PNW produce facilities 

In September 2020, Dr. Kovacevic wrapped up research that investigated sources and control of Listeria in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) produce. The overall objective of this study was to investigate the prevalence and diversity of Listeria spp. in produce handling and processing facilities in PNW states of Oregon and Washington. A secondary objective was to identify potential routes of Listeria spp. movement in these facilities, and characterize recovered isolates to better understand their genetic relatedness and antimicrobial resistance profiles. An outreach component included engagement with key industry and regulatory stakeholders and sharing of best practices through hands-on trainings, presentations, and peer-reviewed manuscript publications.

The team worked with seven facilities, helping define the scope of the L. monocytogenes problem and ways to improve the control for this important foodborne pathogen, ultimately helping improve the food safety and strengthen the competitiveness of the specialty crop industry across the PNW.

Together with Drs. Waite-Cusic and Stone, Dr. Kovacevic’s food safety team delivered four workshops on Pathogen Environmental Monitoring Programs, with 79 people trained. Pre- and post-test data indicated overall 15% knowledge increase for 72 participants, immediately following the training.

This work was funded by the Oregon Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (ODA-5010-GR).

Web-Based Platforms to Distribute Food Safety Information during Two Crisis Events in 2020

When the COVID-19 pandemic and wildfire disasters occurred, food safety resources specific for these events were needed. The Western Regional Center to Enhance Food Safety (WRCEFS) team, led by Dr. Kovacevic, created two webpages ( and addressing these topics. The work of Stephanie Brown, WRCEFS Coordinator and Food Safety Specialist at the Food Innovation Center, was instrumental in getting these projects off the ground.

Webpages were promoted on social media and through university extension networks. As of October 6th, 2020, there were 4,257 COVID-19 and 416 wildfire page views. More specifically, the COVID-19 page accounted for 53.23% of overall website views and the wildfire page was associated with 5.20% of views. When looking at page views on a global scale, the wildfire page was accessed by viewers in three countries (U.S., Canada, and Costa Rica) and the COVID-19 page was accessed by viewers in 44 countries and 3 territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, and Turks and Caicos Islands). The food safety and wildfire page was the most commonly viewed in Oregon cities, including Eugene, Portland, and Corvallis. 

Similar to the wildfire page, the COVID-19 page was most often viewed in Oregon cities (Corvallis and Beaverton) or was accessed from an unknown location. When looking at page views by device, both websites were most often viewed on desktops. However, a combined total of 575 users viewed these pages on either mobile devices or tablets, highlighting the importance of designing webpages to be viewer friendly across multiple devices. 

Collectively, these analytics data have helped us better understand the uses of our resources, and how we can further improve and tailor messaging and dissemination of food safety information in future crisis situations. 

This work was shared at OSU’s 2020 Extension Annual Conference in a poster presentation titled: “Case Study on the Effective Use of Web-Based Platforms to Distribute Food Safety Information during Two Crisis Events in 2020”.

To learn more about WRCEFS, one of four U.S. regional centers that supports food safety-related training efforts in 15 states/territories in the Western U.S., please visit:

Check out our features in the Food Science and Technology Newsletters for more lab highlights!

December 2020 FST newsletter

September 2021 FST newsletter

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