Tag Archives: China

Duo: Finding My Food Safety Internship

Finding My Food Safety Internship

By Duo G.

This summer, I will intern at Mars Global Food Safety Center, located in my hometown of Beijing, China. My internship supervisor is the global analytical research manager of the center. The Mars Global Food Safety Center opened in September 2015. It aims to increase scientific understanding and capability in an effort to ensure safe food for all through knowledge capture, knowledge generation, and knowledge sharing. It has two main laboratories – the microbiology lab and the analytical lab.

Duo in the analytical instrumentation room at Mars Global Food Safety Center.

I will work in the analytical lab together with the scientists in Global Food Safety Center. My work will focus on solving food safety issues, which include aflatoxin mitigation and food adulteration. I will have the opportunity to spend time working with different scientists for different research projects.

What I am most excited about is the opportunity to bring my knowledge and skills learnt from school into the real world. I am excited to work with the scientists in this industrial setting outside the university. As a triple major in environmental health, chemistry, and biochemistry, I am also really excited that this internship can strongly utilize and integrate my studies in all my three majors. As this is my first internship, I am also a little nervous about what my daily work will be, if there is a huge difference between school and the work, and if I can make good relationships with my colleagues.

My experience getting this internship was different than most of my classmates’. During the early stage of my internship search, I mainly focused on internship opportunities in the US. However, my search and application did not go very smoothly. I was not interested in some of the internships posted and I was feeling frustrated by the slow responses from the internships I did apply for. I decided to browse and apply for internships back in China. Many of the positions in China seemed to be much more interesting to me, and the application processes were much easier and quicker than the American ones. The internship search and application processes only took me about three days on the first week of my summer break and I received responses very quickly in the same week, some even the following day after I sent out my application. Right after my phone interviews, I received several offers. Among these, I chose this internship at Mars Global Food Safety Center. After I confirmed their offer, I booked my flight back to China and officially started my internship in Beijing in the following week.

Duo G.: About My Food Safety Internship

About My Food Safety Internship

By Duo G.

Duo in the analytical instrumentation room at Mars Global Food Safety Center.

This summer, I am interning at Mars Global Food Safety Center located in my hometown in Beijing, China. I am working in the analytical lab together with the scientists here. The lab focuses on solving the food safety issues, which include aflatoxin mitigation and food adulteration. My internship basically consists of three research projects.

From week 1 to week 3, I am working on a mycotoxin detoxifier project with Dr. Peng. Mycotoxin detoxifiers are the substances that can suppress or reduce the absorption of mycotoxins, promote the secretion of mycotoxins, or modify their mode of action. The goal of this project is to quantitively analyze the amount of mycotoxin in corn after being treated by different detoxifiers under different concentrations. The tasks include corn grinding, pipette handling, solution preparation for sample preparation & sample analysis, aflatoxin purification with immunoaffinity column (IAC), HPLC detection, and quantitative analysis.

From week 4 to week 7, I am doing a rice adulteration project. This project aims to develop an accurate and precise fingerprinting method using multivariate tools to build a robust model to distinguish possibly adulterated rice from authentic rice in China. The goal is to focus on one key tool and develop his competence on it for adulteration identification. There are two instruments of vibrational spectroscopy used in parallel in this project for collecting the spectra: SCiO (NIR) and FTIR. For NIR, it is a handheld portable device that requires little sample preparation and is very easy to use. The tasks include scanning each rice sample poured in the petri dish and then analyze the spectra. For FTIR, it requires sample preparation: I need to grind and sieve each rice sample to get the smallest layer of rice particles less than 100 microns to do the FTIR scanning, in order to maintain the accuracy and the consistency of the results. After collecting two set of spectra using two different methods for our 136 Chinese rice samples, I conduct data analysis using computer software, which includes two different computer programs: SCiO and Simca. For data analysis using each program, the tasks include data processing, model building, model testing, etc. This project is the focus of my internship.

From week 8 to week 10, I am doing a final aflatoxin mitigation project (ozone project) with Dr. Li. Chemical destruction is one way to destroy aflatoxin and with great advantage for bulky grain, like peanut kernel. The goal of this project is to operate one chemical method using ozone on degradation of aflatoxins and learn the aflatoxin detection capabilities in peanuts. The tasks include experimental design, generating ozone (ozone water) using ozone generator, determining ozone concentration in water by iodometric titration, performing ozone-aflatoxin reaction experiment, instrumental analysis using QTOF LC/MS and QQQ LC/MS. Many types of wet chemistry reaction and instrumentation are operated for this project.

These research projects at Mars Global Food Safety Center have very strong connections to environmental health. Aflatoxin contamination is responsible for huge economic loss, not only in peanuts, but also in corn and other tree nuts. Sorting systems during processing are quite effective at separating out highly contaminated materials. But this creates a waste stream which today is either destroyed, repurposed through unregulated routes, or consumed by local farmers and their families and fed to the animals. Therefore, it will cause huge environmental consequence that is harmful to our environmental health and human health. Through the study in GFSC, we are exploring potential solutions that could reduce the toxicity level of highly contaminated peanuts and open up opportunities for safely repurposing and reducing food waste, e.g. safe animal feed.

Food fraud is another key issue among food safety risks. Adulterated substances might be added into the food product to substitute the original raw material. These adulterated substances are very likely to cause negative health outcome to human. Many food fraud cases in China have caused a lot of severe health outcomes, including fatality, of the consumers, which have already become China’s public health crisis in terms of food safety. GFSC has long-term blueprint and driving ambition on raw material integrity. GFSC focuses on identifying vulnerable raw material value streams, fingerprinting technologies and prevention frameworks to aid in food fraud prevention.

Besides these three main research projects on my timeline, I am also learning about routine laboratory functioning, chemical inventory and equipment storage, and also environmental health and safety management. I am also studying a lot from the Environmental Health & Safety team at Mars Global Food Safety Center about the laboratory safety management and environmental health practices.

My solid chemistry knowledge and laboratory skills are the most important skills I need to make my internship awesome. Other basic laboratory knowledge and skills in terms of laboratory management and environmental health & safety are also very important. Many “soft skills” like interpersonal communication and time management are also needed.

I will need the support from the research scientists of analytical team, especially the scientists who act as my mentors and are in charge of the projects that I am working on. I will also need a lot of support from the lab assistants I work with over summer.

Bowen L.: About My Internship

About My Internship

By Bowen L.

Bowen measures exposure by bicycle in Chengdu.

As I mentioned in the last blog, my internship over the summer was a research project that mainly targets community-level and personal exposure to air and noise pollution in Chengdu, China in this summer. In this blog, I am going to describe my activities for this internship.

There were two primary studies in this project: the stationary community study and the mobile commute study. In the community study, we selected four sites within the inner ring and four sites on the outer ring of Chengdu city as our measurement sites. Based on our discussions and findings, people who live or spend a lot of time at these sites were susceptible to be exposed to heavy air and noise pollution because of either the heavy traffic, road construction, or the presence of other aerosol producers there. Also, on the roof of CDC office building, we set up a bulky community air monitor to collect long-time measurements.

In the mobile commute study, we had three pre-determined routes that represented high, medium, and low personal exposure to air and noise pollution. We made measurements while we traveled on these routes by different transportation means. We also had a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route added for investigating people’s exposure on the newly constructed transportation mode in this city. For both studies, we wanted to investigate the level of exposure by measuring the concentration of various aerosol components such as particular matter and black carbon. We also used other supplementary measurements, such as GPS and accelerator data, to help us plot a geographic exposure map.

My routine daily work comprised field work and office time. Each day I went to the field, traveled on the route, took measurements, and then returned to the office to meet and upload our findings to the database. We usually did the field work first in the morning, but later we recognized the need to expand the time range of measurements. We had flexible field work and office hours in a day. I had a lot of challenges during the field work. For many days, the weather was quite hot and sometimes there were storms. Our work sometimes would be questioned and we’d be stopped by police officers and even citizens concerned that we might interfere the traffic. Each day, there was a long distance to travel by foot, bike, and automobile. Even though my field work was strenuous, I felt a sense of achievement. I believed it was worthy because someday the measurements would potentially help people to choose the best route for their commute.

Bowen L.: How I Found My International Internship

How I Found My International Internship

By Bowen L.

For my internship, I worked in Chengdu China on a research project led by Professor Edmund Seto of our department at UW Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. We worked with people from Sichuan Center of Disease Control and Prevention. The project mainly aimed to investigate personal exposure to air and noise pollution in Chengdu city over this summer and to assess the effectiveness of both the conventional and novel measurement instruments. In this blog, I am going to share the story of how I got this internship.

Bowen measures exposure by bicycle in Chengdu.

It was not easy at first when I started to apply for internships. I sent application materials to many companies, but I received few responses from them. At that time my resume was very weak. I had little experience and did not have many skills in writing a resume. So I turned to Hayley Leventhal, our career counselor. I began to arrange meetings with Hayley, and we had many great discussions. She taught me a lot of writing skills such as what should be emphasized and omitted. Then I started to revise my resume over and over. I sent my edited versions to Hayley, and she would point out strengths and weaknesses. I learned new things each time from her. Later, I began to receive interview requests from some corporations. I believed I had improved. However, interview skills were another challenge for me. I was rejected sometimes because there was another candidate who did better in the interview session. There is a saying that interview is a skill that can not be learned from book but from experience. I did not doubt that and believed I would need more interview experience.

Fortunately, it was by chance I heard that Professor Seto would carry out a research project in my hometown Chengdu, China over this summer. I was very excited to hear about this news. I reached out to Professor Seto and expressed my passion about joining this project. We arranged to meet several days later. Before I went to the meeting, I prepared myself by going over background knowledge that I had learned in class about air and noise pollution. I also looked up information about current air quality in Chengdu.

In the meeting, I think I left a good first impression on Professor Seto. I showed confidence in my knowledge of the urban road and green design and I also demonstrated my proficiency in instrument operation. Professor Seto thought it would be very helpful to have me contribute to this project, so I was selected to be involved in the project right after the meeting.

Overall, my words for new applicants are: keep digging, the one that is right for you will come to you.