Principle Investigator

Joy Waite-Cusic, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Food Safety Systems

Joy was born and raised on the Oregon Coast in Florence.  She graduated from OSU with a B.S. in Food Science in 2002 and M.S. in Microbiology in 2004.  She earned her Ph.D. in Food Science with a specialization in food microbiology from The Ohio State University in 2007. Since 2012, Joy has been back at OSU working on food safety, quality, and spoilage microbiology to support public health and the food industry.  Joy supports a strong research team in her own lab as well as facilitating the OSU-BUILD Dairy Program. She is also actively involved in extension efforts as part of Oregon’s Farm Food Safety Team, a member of the Western Regional Center to Enhance Food Safety, and serves as the Statewide Specialist for the Master Food Preserver Program.  

Graduate Students

Paige Benson, MS student (co-advised with Dave Dallas)

Paige was born and raised in Prior Lake, Minnesota. She attended the University of Minnesota in 2022 with a BS in Food Science and Technology. Paige has a passion for all things fermented dairy, which is prevalent in her Masters project here at Oregon State University. She is currently working on her Masters thesis about bitterness mitigation using different starter cultures in aged cheeses. In her free time, Paige is an avid pickleball and volleyball player, yoga enthusiast, hiker, and home fermenter.


Jason Racine, MS student 

Jason was born and raised in Southern California. He graduated from high school in 2007, and graduated from Pepperdine University with a BA in Music Education in 2012. He moved to Oregon in 2015 to pursue a career in the brewing industry. In 2017, he decided to go back to school for a BS in Food Science and Technology. This lead to a new found interest in chemistry and microbiology. For the past decade he has been adamantly gardening at home. Through these combined interests he has tailored his bachelors degree to include horticulture and entrepreneurship. He is currently working on a MS in Food Science, doing research on the growth of E. coli in onions. His research allows him to work in the lab, greenhouse, and in the fields. His free time is spent furthering his work in horticulture and food.


Alexandra ‘Sasha’ Nerney, MS student 

Sasha Nerney was born and raised in Middlebury, Connecticut. She attended Purdue University where she was exposed to the fields of food and agricultural sciences, graduating with a BS in Food Science and minor in Fermentation. Here, through extracurriculars like brewing and in a lab focused on human factors on food safety, she developed a passion for microbiology. She has goals to provide a more safe and sustainable food system, working on her MS in Food Science at Oregon State. In her free time, Sasha likes to read (especially in a hammock), see live music, and is looking forward to exploring the beautiful landscape in Oregon!


Madeleine Enriquez, MS student

Madeleine was born and raised in Sussex County New Jersey. She recently graduated from University of Connecticut with a B.S. in Animal Science with a minor in Food Science in 2022. Madeleine is now pursuing a M.S. in Food Science and Technology at OSU. Her project is focus on looking at late-blowing gas defects in semi-hard cheeses. Throughout her undergraduate career she worked on the campus dairy farm where she learned how to milk cows as well as dairy food safety through the perspective of a dairy farmer. Madeleine enjoys spending her free time tending to her numerous houseplants and at home fermentation experiments.


Jenna Porter, MS student

Jenna grew up in Prineville, Oregon and began attending OSU in 2020 with plans to earn her B.S. in Microbiology. She joined Joy’s lab in 2022 as an undergraduate research assistant. Her plans for the future include pursuing a career in food microbiology. In her free time, she enjoys baking, hiking, photography, and spending time with her pets.


Sage Taylor, MS student

Sage is from Portland, Oregon and finished her H.B.S degree in Food Science and Technology and minor in Sustainability in 2023 from OSU. Sage developed a passion for dairy microbiology during a summer internship in Vermont and is now pursuing a M.S in Food Science focusing on identifying and optimizing antilisterial bacteriocins to inhibit Listeria monocytogenes in food systems. She loves to cook, rock climbing and enjoy the beautiful Oregon outdoors in her free time and is excited to continue to research and socialize in Wiegand!


Lauren Peck, MS student (co-advised with Zeynep Atamer)

Lauren is from Haddonfield, New Jersey. She got her Food Science undergraduate degree from Rutgers University in 2023. She is now pursuing a M.S. in Food Science and Technology. Her project involves sweeteners in ice cream. In her free time, Lauren likes to bake and read.


Zoe Andersen (co-advised with Jovana Kovacevic)

Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Zoe grew up enjoying spending time outdoors, running, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends. Zoe attended the University of Arizona where she earned her BS in Nutrition and Food Systems. While at the University of Arizona, she worked as an undergraduate researcher at the University of Arizona’s Water Energy and Sustainable Technology (WEST) Center where she worked on environmental and molecular microbiology projects. At the WEST Center, Zoe found interest and passion in food and environmental microbiology, specifically related to bacterial pathogens.


Mackenzie O’Connell-Abed

Mackenzie grew up in a suburb of Greenville, South Carolina. She got her BS in microbiology from Clemson University in 2021. She then moved to Blacksburg, Virginia to pursue her MPH concentrating on infectious diseases from Virginia Tech in 2023. While there, Mackenzie found a passion for foodborne pathogens and food safety. She has come to Oregon State to work on her Masters thesis pertaining to sanitation methods to combat spore forming organisms. She enjoys nothing more than baking something warm and delicious, or curling up with a good book and a mug of hot chocolate.

Undergraduate Students

Hayden Metzger

Hayden is from Salem, OR. He grew up in the agriculture community on a small hobby grass seed and marionberry farm. He began attending OSU in 2020 and is planning to earn his B.S. in Food Science and Technology and minor in Agriculture and Food Business Management. He joined Joy’s lab in 2022 as an undergraduate research assistant. Hayden was especially interested in working in the food industry after his trip to Haiti in 2021. He is motivated to pursue a career of helping others using sustainable food systems.


Sindhura Karuturi

Sindhura grew up in Rajahmundry, India, and began attending OSU in 2021. She is planning to earn her degree in Food Science and Technology. She joined Joy’s lab in 2022 as an undergraduate research assistant. She is interested in product development and hopes to pursue a career in that field one day.

In her free time, she enjoys cooking and exploring new restaurants in town.


Kacey Cutter

Kacey grew up on the rainy Oregon Coast in Newport, OR, and began attending OSU in 2022. She is planning to earn her B.S. in BioHealth Sciences with a pre-med focus. She joined Joy’s lab in 2023 as an undergraduate research assistant, specifically interested in the spread and behavior of various pathogens present in food. In her free time Kacey loves to read with a good coffee, as well as petting cats at the local animal shelter.

Faculty Research Associate

Hussein Mohamed, Ph.D.

Hussein is from Egypt. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Medical Science and a master’s in Food Science from Cairo University. He earned his Ph.D. degree in Food Science from Cairo University in 2005. During his Ph.D. program he served as a visiting scholar for two years at the department of Food Science and Technology at the Ohio State University.  He spent three years as a postdoctoral research associate at the department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering at the Ohio State University.  Hussein’s research focuses are in the fields of food microbiology, food safety, meat science, meat processing and preservation technologies. He worked as an assistant professor at the department of food hygiene and control (meat hygiene and control division) at Cairo University from 2012 to 2018. He has experience in GMP, HACCP and food safety management systems. Currently, he is joining Joy’s lab as a Post Doc Fellow in food microbiology. He loves hiking, travelling, barbecuing and enjoys being in nature.


Faculty Research Assistant

Sam Kilgore

Sam was born and raised in Lebanon, Oregon and received her bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Technology from Oregon State. She started working in Joy’s lab in September 2018 at the beginning of her senior year and decided to keep working there after graduating. Sam has mostly been working on process validations for food companies and has really enjoyed learning about food safety. Her hobbies include watching football, hiking and traveling.

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