Grad student’s research aims to keep food safe

ndsu graduate student studying petri dish

NDSU graduate students conduct world-class research to address critical needs of the country and world. Manoj Shah is one of those students.

Shah, a doctoral candidate studying molecular pathogenesis, focuses on how the harmful pathogen Salmonella moves from soil to leafy greens like spinach or lettuce. His hope is to help keep the food supply safe.

“We have a serious pathogen contamination problem in fresh produce, leading to thousands of illnesses and hundreds of hospitalizations each year,” Shah said. “Research like mine will help us understand how pathogens, such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, survive in soil and what may be done to prevent their survival or transfer to spinach leaves. The findings may help prevent future contamination problems.”

Shah also is performing a metagenome analysis on soil samples containing Salmonella to discover changes in the native bacterial populations over time, which may provide key answers about the relationship between the pathogen and microbes in soil. Manoj works under the supervision of Teresa Bergholz, assistant professor of microbiological sciences, and conducted research in collaboration with Manan Sharma, a research microbiologist at the U.S. Dept of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland.

“I have a keen interest in research, and NDSU provides a great environment for such opportunities,” said Shah, who earned his master’s degree in microbiology from NDSU. “We have excellent facilities and faculty who have a rich diversity in research interests. Also, the inter-departmental collaborations around the campus broaden our learning beyond our own field of study.”

Shah is from Rautahat, Nepal. After earning his doctorate, he plans a career in research, either working for a company or in a government position.

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rows of plants in green house