Plant Sciences faculty promotions

Plant Sciences Faculty Promoted

Authored on
May 24, 2022

Three faculty members in the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Department of Plant Sciences have been approved for promotions, effective July 1, 2022. Bingcan Chen and Jiajia Rao will be promoted to associate professors with tenure and Anuradha Vegi to associate professor of practice.

Bingcan Chen

Chen joined NDSU in 2015 as an assistant professor in food and cereal chemistry. He has developed a unique research program focused on understanding the chemistry of plant-based constituents, particularly lipids, proteins, and phenolics, in relation to function and flavor. The objectives of the program are to (i) identify high efficacy natural antioxidants from cereals and grains to prevent food oxidation; (ii) fabricate multi-functional food biopolymers as functional food ingredients; and (iii) mitigate the beany flavor of pulse flours and proteins. His overall goal is to leverage the gaps between the food industry and crop growers in North Dakota through fundamental and applied research. 

Chen has authored over 120 peer-reviewed publications (94 since joining NDSU), six book chapters and more than 30 abstracts. His scholarly achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally. He has been a recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including the 2022 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Outstanding Young Scientist Award in Honor of Samuel Cate Prescott. He is currently the chair-elect of the IFT’s Food Chemistry division. 

Chen teaches courses in food chemistry, food analysis, cereal and food chemistry, and graduate seminars. His past and current mentees include nine M.S. and Ph.D. students, five undergraduate students, eight postdoctoral research associates, and three visiting scholars.

Chen has a Ph.D. in food science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His M.S. is in pharmacochemistry from Chongqing University, China, and his B.S. is in food science and technology from Sichuan University of Science and Engineering, China.

Jiajia Rao

Rao joined NDSU in 2016 as an assistant professor in food chemistry and ingredient technology. Her research program goals are to identify the structure and functional properties of food ingredients from plant-based and/or cereal sources and to apply those findings to improve food production quality and safety. The program integrates relevant areas in food and cereal science, physical chemistry, material sciences, engineering, and plant pathology. Specific projects in the past five years include (i) tuning plant protein functionality, from field to extraction to application; and (ii) the development of delivery systems for encapsulating bioactive compounds. Her overall goal is to foster long-term economic benefits for North Dakota through value-added and high quality agricultural products. 

Rao has authored 77 publications, 65 of which were published after joining NDSU. She has received recognition for her scholarly and research achievements, most recently receiving the 2022 American Oil Chemists’ Society Young Scientist Research Award. 

Rao teaches courses in food unit operations, food ingredient technology, food product development, and cereal and food chemistry. In 2017, she secured a teaching grant from Richland IFC, Inc. of Breckenridge, Minnesota, to develop blue corn-based food products in the food product development class.

Her past and current mentees include nine M.S. and Ph.D. students, two undergraduate students, and five postdoctoral research associates.

Rao has a Ph.D. in food science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her M.S. is in pharmacochemistry from Chongqing University, China, and her B.S. is in food science and engineering from Sichuan University of Science and Engineering, China.

Anuradha Vegi

Vegi joined the Department of Plant Sciences in 2015 as an instructor of food and cereal science courses. In 2016, she was hired as an assistant professor of practice in food safety, processing, and microbiology, and in 2019, she was named the Food Science Undergraduate Program Coordinator. Vegi wants to see the NDSU Food Science program continue to grow and have a positive impact on society through training graduates and researchers to create and improve food products.  

Vegi has taught a variety of cereal and food science and food safety courses at NDSU. Her current course load includes introduction to food science and technology, food processing, cereal technology, cereal and food fermentation, food safety, food laws and regulations, and sensory science of foods. In her role as the Food Science Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Vegi helps prospective students and their families learn about the advantages of majoring in food science at NDSU and guides current undergraduate students to successfully achieve their learning goals. She has advised 63 undergraduate students, served on 13 graduate committees and mentored 10 teaching assistants. 

Apart from teaching and advising, Vegi collaborates on teaching-related research in food fermentation and cereal grain safety during storage and processing. Her current research work is studying how vacuum steam pasteurization can help reduce the enteric pathogen presence and growth in whole wheat flour and to evaluate the functional and sensory impacts of vacuum steam pasteurized soft wheat.

She has published four journal articles and attended or presented at more than 50 professional conferences. She also creates YouTube videos to use as teaching aids for her courses. Vegi gives back to the food science community by serving as an editor and reviewer for food research journals, as a member of the Minnesota section of the IFT scholarship committee since 2017, as secretary for the North Central Branch of the American Society for Microbiology (2012), and as historian for the NDSU chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta (2018-2021).

In 2021, Vegi was awarded the Earl and Dorothy Foster Excellence in Teaching Award by the NDSU College of Agriculture, Food Systems and Natural Resources. In 2022, she was honored by the NDSU Ag Ambassadors student organization with the Herd Award.

Vegi has a Ph.D. in food safety with molecular biology emphasis and graduate certificates in applied statistics and food protection from NDSU. Her M.S. is in biotechnology from Andhra University, India, and her B.S. is in botany, chemistry and zoology from St. Joseph’s College of Women, Andhra University.

Faculty promotions were recognized at the NDSU Celebration of Excellence held on May 10, 2022.

Sources: Bingcan Chen, Jiajia Rao, Anuradha Vegi
Author: Kamie Beeson
Editor: Karen Hertsgaard