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Fall 2018 Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Jiajia Chen

Please tell us about yourself.

Hello, I am Jiajia Chen, originally from China. I did my bachelor and master in Beijing University of Chemical Technology, China and completed my Ph.D. work at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA. I have extensive educational training on food, chemical, and environmental engineering areas. Prior to my current position (70% research and 30% teaching) at The University of Tennessee, I worked on different positions of research assistant professor (100% research) and assistant professor of practice (85% teaching). I like my current positon better, where I can do both research and teaching in a more balanced manner. This allows me to explore and learn many new things, as well as interact with students in the classrooms.

In my spare time, I like to spend time with family and friends. I like to play with my son, Ryan, a four-year-old happy boy. We like to go to zoo and playground, almost every week. I also like to read interesting stories about chickens, rabbits, and all other cute animals, with Ryan.

Tell us about your research interests and why you are passionate about the topic.

Food safety, food for health, and food security are three major research directions in the food area. The overall goal of my research is to develop an applied and fundamental research program in food processing and engineering through experimental and modeling approaches to improve food quality, safety, nutritional value, and thus human health. I am interested in developing multiphysics and multiscale computer simulation models to understand and improve food processing technologies, to understand the interactions between human body and food systems. The research outcomes are closely related with our daily life and will benefit all of us. Working on these meaning topics and developing all these new knowledge are very exciting.

What first interested you in Food Science?

My first experience in Food Science (Engineering) actually only started from my doctoral work. Prior to that, I had extensive experience on environmental science and engineering, which is a multidisciplinary area developed based on chemical engineering. My previous work in environmental area involved in transforming agricultural materials, such as wheat straws, corn stoves, and food wastes, into bioenergy. Similar to environmental area, food science is also a multidisciplinary area, which shares many common ground. My doctoral work of developing computer simulation models to understand and improve the microwave heating of food really introduced me into the food engineering area. My first project was to see how a food product is cooked in a microwave oven. It was very interesting to see that, during microwave heating, some parts are already boiled, but some still in cold. The interesting phenomenon attracted me to dive into the food engineering area. I am excited to use my expertise and experience from different backgrounds to solve important problems in food area.

What classes will you be teaching and what excites you most about teaching at The University of Tennessee’s Food Science Department?

I will teach the course of Food Engineering to our undergraduate and graduate students in food science start from Fall 2018. The most exciting thing for me to teach this course here is that it will be a new and challenge experience for me to teach an engineering course to a group of science students. I have taught the same course to a group of Food Science and Engineering students in China who have relatively strong engineering background. It will be very interesting to explore a variety of teaching approaches for me to interact with the students here who have more science background. I am looking forward to that.

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