By Sara Bowman
Julie Wagendorf graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in Microbiology and Medical Technology as well as a minor in Chemistry. She went on to obtain a Master’s Degree in Microbiology, also at NDSU. Later, she added an Associate’s Degree from Bismarck State College in Computer Support and Database Management. She chose microbiology as a career path because she found the professors in the department to be inspiring. She also developed an interest in food microbiology and food safety as an undergraduate at NDSU. She worked in the media room and as a teaching assistant for some lab courses, which only reinforced her interest in the field. She credits these experiences with helping her find a job after graduation.
After finishing school, Julie began working at the North Dakota Department of Health. She served as the Lead Foodborne and Enteric Disease Epidemiologist, while also monitoring zoonotic disease and performing syndromic surveillance. After six years in that role, she moved to serving as the Program Manager for Foodborne and Enteric Illnesses, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and Hepatitis C, where she supervised nine field and surveillance epidemiologists. After serving in that role for five years, she switched to her current role as a Licensed Environmental Health Professional in the Division of Food and Lodging. This part of the Department of Health manages the State Retail Food Program, which helps to ensure that inspections and safety checks are taking place in many different areas of industry, but especially the food industry. This helps to make sure that the food supply is safe for both the consumers and the people working in the industry.
Julie’s advice for aspiring scientists includes keeping up with current events in the field and keeping up with technology. She adds that grades are important, but are not the only factor that potential employers look for. They are looking for employees that are resilient and resourceful and able to problem solve.
When she isn’t working, Julie enjoys gardening and being outdoors. She grows a variety of natural, pesticide-free vegetables, herbs, and berries. She has three kids who keep her and her husband busy. She also enjoys taking art classes, mostly in painting. She is an accomplished musician and played oboe in the Gold Star Marching Band during her time at NDSU.
Julie’s whole family enjoys cooking in the styles of both German and Russian cuisine. She also has a knack for cake decoration, and often makes her children's birthday cakes. Some of the highlights of cake decoration accomplishments include an Iron Man Explosion Cake, a cake shaped like Dora the Explorer (the princess episode), Batman cupcakes, and a cake with the theme of Disney Junior’s Sophia the First.
Julie's favorite microbe is Shiga toxin-producing E. coli.