FDA Research Microbiologist Fellowship

Updated: 14 days ago
Location: Bedford Park, ILLINOIS
Deadline: 31 May 2024

*Applications will be reviewed on a rolling-basis.

FDA Office and Location: A research opportunity is available within the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), Division of Food Processing Science & Technology (DFPST), located in Bedford Park, Illinois.

The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, known as CFSAN, provides services to consumers, domestic and foreign industry and other outside groups regarding field programs; agency administrative tasks; scientific analysis and support; and policy, planning and handling of critical issues related to food, dietary supplements, and cosmetics.

Research Project: Presence of pathogenic bacteria in low moisture foods is a significant and increasing problem in the U.S. and elsewhere. Salmonella has been linked to nationwide outbreaks and recalls involving a broad range of products, including almonds, black pepper, hazelnuts, peanut products, pistachios, pet food, soy products, and breakfast cereal. Additionally, enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) and Listeria monocytogenes are increasingly implicated in outbreaks and/or recalls linked to low-moisture foods, including nut products and wheat flour. Finally, Cronobacter sakazakii has been implicated in outbreaks/recalls in powdered infant formula products.

In 2000, the CDC reported that 18 and 19% of food-borne diseases caused by bacterial pathogens in the years 1993–1997 in the U.S. were associated with contaminated equipment and poor hygiene practices, respectively. Although outbreaks can result from extensive growth at abusive storage temperatures, insufficient cooking, etc. there are a significant number that have been associated with bacterial cross-contamination events. Cross-contamination refers to the transfer, direct or indirect, of pathogens from a contaminated product or a piece of equipment to a non-contaminated product. Bacterial cross-contamination can occur through a variety of routes including air-to-food, surface-to-food, and surface-to-food in liquid transfer. Research is needed to understand and model contaminant transfer events to devise methods for preventing them. In addition, research is needed to evaluate sanitation controls at preventing cross-contamination.

Learning Objectives: The participant will also be trained in the use of processing equipment, sanitation methods and pathogen detection methods and will participate as a member of a team that will investigate the efficacy of survival and transfer of pathogens in a low moisture environment to food. The project will also investigate sanitation and its impact on reducing the risk of pathogen contamination in low moisture foods. Over the course of the year the participant will obtain training, as needed, on use of conventional and molecular assays for detection and enumeration of pathogens, and for operating lab- and pilot-scale processing equipment.

It is anticipated that through this fellowship, the participant will receive training and:

  • Assist in the creation of mathematical models to model pathogen transfer to food
  • Use of analytical methods for detection of pathogens in food
  • Use of different cleaning and sanitation methods used in low water activity environments
  • Development and use of modeling to predict growth and inactivation of pathogens
  • Presentation and writing of research presentations and papers

Anticipated Start Date: 6/1/2024.

Appointment Length: The appointment will initially be for one year but may be renewed upon recommendation of FDA and is contingent on the availability of funds.

Level of Participation: The appointment is full time.

Citizenship Requirements: This opportunity is available to U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) only.


This program, administered by ORAU through its contract with the U.S. Department of Energy to manage the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, was established through an interagency agreement between DOE and FDA. The participant will receive a monthly stipend commensurate with educational level and experience. Proof of health insurance is required for participation in this program. Participants do not become employees of FDA, DOE or the program administrator, and there are no employment-related benefits.

Completion of a successful background investigation by the Office of Personnel Management is required for an applicant to be on-boarded at FDA.  OPM can complete a background investigation only for individuals, including non-US Citizens, who have resided in the US for a total of three of the past five years.

FDA Ethics Requirements

If an ORISE Fellow, to include their spouse and minor children, reports what is identified as a Significantly Regulated Organization (SRO) or prohibited investment fund financial interest in any amount, or a relationship with an SRO, except for spousal employment with an SRO, and the individual will not voluntarily divest the financial interest or terminate the relationship, then the individual is not placed at FDA. For additional requirements, see FDA Ethics for Nonemployee Scientists . 

FDA requires ORISE participants to read and sign their FDA Education and Training Agreement within 30 days of his/her start date, setting forth the conditions and expectations for his/her educational appointment at the agency.  This agreement covers such topics as the following:

  • Non-employee nature of the ORISE appointment
  • Prohibition on ORISE Fellows performing inherently governmental functions
  • Obligation of ORISE Fellows to convey all necessary rights to the FDA regarding intellectual property conceived or first reduced to practice during their fellowship
  • The fact that research materials and laboratory notebooks are the property of the FDA
  • ORISE fellow’s obligation to protect and not to further disclose or use non-public information


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