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Science and Our Food Supply Careers: Farukh M. Khambaty, Ph.D.

Careers in Food Science Main Page

"Being a good scientist means a life-long commitment to keep growing and staying abreast of new developments."

Career Title:
Food and Drug Administration
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Washington, DC

Fields of Expertise:
Molecular Epidemiology
Efficacy of New Antimicrobial Food Additives

Academic Studies:
Bombay University India
Bombay, India
Bachelor of Science in Chemistry
Master of Science in Biochemistry

University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
Ph.D. in Bacterial Molecular Biology

Employment History:
Volunteer Technician
Bombay, India

Biochemistry Technician
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Virginia

Lab Instructor
University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina


"If I hadn't become a scientist, I would have become . . . a science writer or reporter."


Q: What do you do in your current job?
I lead the network within FDA that tracks foodborne bacterial diseases using DNA "fingerprinting." This network is connected to a larger network that includes the CDC, USDA, and more than 35 state health departments. The network works together to monitor and pinpoint new foodborne illness outbreaks.
I also serve as a reviewer on a team that decides whether or not a new antimicrobial food additive should be permitted to be added to a particular food. This team determines if the antimicrobial additive is safe for the consumer, those who will be working with it, and the environment. In addition, we also confirm that the additive will achieve its intended technical effect.

Q: What is the most interesting or exciting project you have worked on in your current position?
At FDA, my colleagues and I discovered and defined the role that cargo ships sometimes play in transporting cholera, a serious disease, from country to country. Based on our work, FDA requested that the Coast Guard implement measures that would prevent cholera from hitching a ride into the United States on cargo ships. As a result, the cholera bacterium that was discovered in oysters along the U.S coastline disappeared after the Coast Guard implemented their preventive measures; and not a single case of human illness was reported from this source.

Q: What do you like most about your career?
I like the fact that my career allows me to understand and appreciate the beauty and intricacies that lie in even the smallest life forms.

Q: What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a career in science?
In school, I found studying a difficult and tedious task. Dr. Sarang, a professor of microbiology during my undergraduate years, became my mentor. He encouraged me not to look at science textbooks as hurdles to be surmounted, but rather as museums to wander through and be amazed by the knowledge collected by wise people over thousands of years.

I would encourage students to find a mentor who is a scientist. Also, to be a good scientist means a life-long commitment to keep growing and staying abreast of new developments, so spend your summers interning in an organization where exciting scientific work is being done. Last, but not least, learn chemistry and mathematics. They form the underpinnings of most of the sciences.



May 2001