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College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Professors Elected to American Academy of Microbiology

By Maryland Today Staff

Jianghong Meng of the Department of Nutrition and Food Science and Utpal Pal of the Department of Veterinary Medicine have been elected to the American Academy of Microbiology. The honor, one of the highest awarded to researchers in this field, recognizes excellence, originality and leadership. They’re part of a group of seven fellows from UMD named over 50 years.

Meng, director of the Joint Institute for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) and the Center for Food Safety & Security Systems, has made significant strides in the field of food safety microbiology, including development of rapid molecular methods for detecting foodborne pathogens. He works on the Food and Drug Administration’s GenomeTrakr project, which is the first network of laboratories to use the process of whole genome sequencing to rapidly identify foodborne pathogens. This information can in turn be accessed by researchers and public health officials for real-time analysis to significantly improve outbreak investigations and prevent further illness and death.

Pal researches infectious disease, including the basic microbiology of zoonotic diseases, which are passed from animals to humans. His extensive publications have focused primarily on microbiology as a means for prevention of tick-borne illnesses. His lab has contributed to new paradigms particularly in the study of an atypical bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi that is transmitted by black-legged ticks and results in Lyme disease in animals and humans. Pal also leads the Tick Immunity Project, representing the first multi-project grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health to establish a collaborative national research program in tick immunobiology.

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