Michael Doyle, director of UGA’s Center for Food Safety, helps the food industry—from the farm to your fork—produce safe food while also educating students and consumers.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
All of my degrees—Bachelor of Science in bacteriology, Master of Science and Ph.D. in food microbiology—are from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am currently Regents Professor of Food Microbiology in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and my current responsibilities at UGA are both administrative, as director of the Center for Food Safety, and research, developing better ways to detect, control and eliminate the harmful microbes that can be found in food.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I joined UGA in January 1991 with the charge to develop a Center for Food Safety. From 1980 to 1991, I was a faculty member of the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I developed a strong collaboration with scientists and epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. My research team developed many of the early assays for detecting emerging foodborne pathogens in foods, so CDC would often send us outbreak-associated food samples for analysis. UGA recruited me to develop a Center for Food Safety, and with the strong relationship I had with CDC, coming to UGA was an opportunity to not only develop a new program but also to enhance my collaboration with CDC.
What are your favorite courses and why?
My favorite courses are in microbiology and food science. I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin so have always been interested in producing safe food. Since harmful microbes are the major cause of foodborne illnesses and the food industry is the primary user of innovations developed through food science, courses in these two fields provided the fundamental tools I needed for my career in food safety.
What interests you about your field?
Everyone enjoys eating food, and the United States is fortunate to have one of the safest food supplies in the world. The work we do at the Center for Food Safety is not readily apparent to most consumers, but the contributions we make to further enhancing the safety of food is a point of pride for all of us at the Center for Food Safety. We enjoy being a part of the team that helps make food safe.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
Helping the food industry, from the farm to your fork, produce safe food is a major high point of my career. We have developed many food safety interventions that can be used in all aspects of food production, including on the farm, in food manufacturing facilities and in the home to prevent food-associated illnesses, and I work with many food companies and federal and state food safety agencies to provide innovative approaches to enhancing the safety of food.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
Our food safety research findings and my involvement with food companies who are leaders in applying advanced food safety technologies to their production systems enables me to provide timely and highly relevant information in my presentations.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
My goal in teaching is not only to educate students but as just importantly to provide the tools needed to enable them to think critically. Students who become critical thinkers can make well-informed decisions, develop better solutions and will be thought leaders in their field.
Describe your ideal student.
In my 36 years as a university professor, I have been blessed with having the opportunity to mentor many exceptionally talented students. Those who were most successful both as students and after graduation had four common characteristics: (1) excelled in the classroom, (2) were highly motivated, (3) were effective communicators, and (4) were independent critical thinkers.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
… to watch Bulldawg football.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
… spend time with my family. Five years ago there were five in my immediate family, including my wife Annette, three children and me. Today, there are 13 of us, including my children’s spouses and five grandchildren. We enjoy family gatherings, which are frequent, including trips to the Georgia mountains and beyond.
Community/civic involvement includes<….
Public service has been part and parcel to being a food safety scientist. It is important to share one’s learnings with those who can apply them for the betterment of making foods safe. Most of my public service commitments have involved participation in national and international advisory councils of federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and food companies.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
“Farmland” because it gives us a better understanding and appreciation of where our food comes from, how it is produced, and the many challenges faced by today’s farmers in order to put food on our tables.
Proudest moment at UGA?
Seeing our students and faculty develop to be the food safety leaders of the future.
Is there anything else you’d like to add? (Other pertinent information to share)
For those unfamiliar with the UGA Center for Food Safety, it is a nationally recognized research program focused on the development of better methods to detect, control and eliminate harmful microbes in foods. Its faculty is composed of leading scientists in the study of foodborne pathogens—ranging from parasites to viruses. Because of their leadership in the food safety arena, center faculty members are frequently invited to serve as scientific advisers for government and industry expert panels.