Minto Michael is the new Assistant Professor of Dairy Science in the School of Food Science.
His primary research focus is on dairy microbiology and safety, which includes yogurt starter and probiotic cultures, microbial safety of nonfat dry milk, and biofilms on dairy processing surfaces. We sat down with him and had a Q&A to get to know him better!
Q: Why did you choose Food Science?
A: I chose Food Science on my Dad’s advice. After finishing high school, I was more interested in becoming an Electronic Engineer but was not able to get in the university of my choice in India. So, I took my Dad’s advice and started my B.E. in Food Technology. After finishing my Food Introduction class in first semester, I was very happy with my decision, and wanted to learn more about food processing, chemistry and microbiology. I became so passionate about food science that I not only got my Engineering degree in Food Science but also decided to get a M.S. and Ph.D. in Food Science and become a Professor. So, I came to U.S. in 2007 to start my graduate studies.
Q: What is your previous work experience?
A: I have worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Food Safety and Defense Laboratory at Kansas State University for about three years. My research focus was on food safety, which included validation studies of thermal processes and chemical treatments of dairy, bakery, beef, poultry and pet food products. During my graduate studies at Kansas State University, I did work as a research assistant (with research focus on food safety) and teaching assistant (help taught Fluid Milk Processing and Dairy Foods Processing courses). I have also worked for few months in a carbonated drink manufacturing plant in India after finishing my bachelor’s degree.
Q: Were you always interested in the Dairy side of Food Science, when did you first become interested in this field?
A: During my B.E., I was very much interested in alcoholic fermentation and dairy science and wanted to pursue my future research and job in one of these fields. When I started working on my M.S. at Kansas State University, I got to work on yogurt probiotics under Dr. Karen Schmidt (Dairy Scientist) and Dr. Randall Phebus (Food Microbiologist). This made my passion and interest in Dairy (particularly Dairy Microbiology) stronger, which led to my Ph.D. research on the safety of milk powders. Help teaching Fluid Milk and Dairy Foods Processing courses during graduate school also played a vital role in making my interest in Dairy stronger.
Q: What is your future career/research goals for SFS?
A: My immediate research plans are to work on dairy microbiology, which include dairy probiotics and dairy safety. I will be working on the ingredients and technologies that could increase the longevity of probiotics in various dairy products such as yogurt and other fermented milk products. I will also be looking at the possible application of radio frequency heating of milk powders to control foodborne pathogens. Within in next couple of years I will also incorporate the dairy processing aspects in my research program and will work on membrane filtration technologies to utilize milk solids in dairy whey.
Q: What are your current hobbies?
A: Everything that involves spending time with my wife. As I spend so much time in my lab and office, I enjoy all activities which my wife and I can do as a family. Beside that I love music and listen to English, Punjabi and Hindi music (after marriage now I also listen to Gujarati music). I do also like cooking.
Q: Why would you recommend Food Science to students?
A: Food is an essence of human and all life forms on earth, and Food Science is a field where you can apply science (including chemistry, microbiology and engineering) to create and produce better and safer food. Within Food Science, on can work on Product Development that is a great combination of science and art. Moreover, food industry is the largest industry in the U.S. and world, so you will always get a job after getting a degree in Food Science.