A Chat with…Don Schaffner, Food Microbiology and Education, Extension and Outreach Divisions

Don Schaffner HeadshotName: Don Schaffner
Job Title: Distinguished Professor and Extension Specialist
Company/Institution: Rutgers University
IFT Divisions to which you belong: Food Microbiology, Education, Extension and Outreach
Highest Level of Education/Degree: PhD

What does your schedule look like today? My schedule is different every day. Today was one of those days that comes along very infrequently. I didn’t have anything scheduled except a phone call with a friend to catch up. I spent the day clearing out my email inbox, and following up on little annoying tasks like submitting travel expenses, submitting peer-reviews of manuscripts and the like. I felt good about doing that today because earlier in the week I had taken care of a couple of “big rocks”, i.e. writing peer-reviewed manuscripts and responding to anonymous reviewers that had reviewed our work.

How did you go about finding your current job? If you don’t count summer jobs and working as a graduate assistant in graduate school, I’ve only ever had one job. That’s the one I hold now. I found it by reading and ad placed in the back of Food Technology magazine.

If you weren’t a Food Scientist, what would you be doing? I’ve always had an interest and an affinity for computers. If things turned out differently I might be a computer programmer. I’ve also had an interest and an affinity for statistics. I think that if I had not discovered food science, and specifically food microbiology I might have been an epidemiologist.

Don, dressed as a cockroach, kissing his wife at the International Association for Food Protection conference

Don, dressed as a cockroach, kissing his wife at the International Association for Food Protection conference

Who do you think is the most influential person in your field?  I think that’s a silly question. When I was an undergraduate student I took a class entitled “Social Implications of Technology, Society, and the Human Condition”. It was one of the best classes I took as an undergraduate student. In this class the professor debunked the “great man theory of history”. Certainly success and influence can come from hard work, but in my opinion it’s also a matter of luck. I’ve certainly had some measure of success in my career, but what if I hadn’t been reading Food Technology that day? What if I didn’t see that ad? What if as a high school senior, I hadn’t had the good fortune to meet with a food science professor and decide to major in food science? My influence today might be different. It would also be true for any “most influential person” I might care to name.

Don in college

When are you most inspired?  I’m most inspired when I’m doing what I love. That might be meeting with a graduate student, teaching an extension workshop, talking with a colleague, going for a walk, writing a peer-reviewed manuscript, or lately, recording a podcast.

Why should I join the Food Microbiology Division or any other IFT Division?  It’s always great to find people with a common interest. IFT divisions are one way to do that.

(To join one or more of IFT’s Divisions, click here)

What is your favorite food?  Chocolate.

Follow Don on Twitter at @bugcounter and check out his website www.foodsafetytalk.com!

Email him directly at schaffner@aesop.rutgers.edu.

Science Meets Food

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