Texas Tech University

Engaged Scholar: Graysen Ortega

I was able to start my research at Texas Tech as a high school student under the guidance of Dr. Mindy Brashears. I would conduct experiments on food safety and present them at FFA Agriscience Fair competitions. Dr. Brashears and this research are what led me to study food science at Tech. I started working in the International Center for Food Industry Excellence (ICFIE) Food Safety Lab as a student assistant. I was able to work on many different research projects and eventually started running my own projects.

My first research project at Tech was a study on a PCR method used to detect Salmonella and E. coli. That was a preliminary study to help develop a protocol for my major project, Prevalence of E. coli non-O157:H7 STEC in Beef in Mexico. I have been able to travel to Mexico about every three months to collect samples. This research is essential in reducing the cases of foodborne illness in Mexico, where it is a leading cause of death in children. Today, I am also an Undergraduate Research Scholar for the Texas Tech University Howard Hughes Medical Institute (TTU/HHMI).

This research is extremely expensive and the Center for Active Learning and Undergraduate Engagement (CALUE) and TTU/HHMI have made a huge impact on my research. CALUE was able to help send my sister and I to the International Association of Food Protection Annual Meeting to present this research. CALUE also gave me the opportunity to present this project at the Minority Access, Inc. National Role Models Conference in Washington, D.C. Both conferences were incredible opportunities and I am incredibly grateful for all CALUE has done to make my time at Texas Tech an incredible success.

Graysen Ortega