Summit Committee

The scientific committee for the Agriculture & Health Summit includes experts in the areas of food, agriculture, medicine, and the human gut microbiota.

Andy Benson Nebraska Food for Health Center – University of Nebraska Lincoln

Andy Benson is Professor of Food Science and Technology at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Food for Health Presidential Chair and Director at the Nebraska Food for Health Center. He has a PhD in microbiology from University of Texas Health Science Center in Texas. In 2017, Dr. Benson established the Nebraska Food for Health Center, a $40.3 million collaboration among academic researchers, food and drug manufacturers and philanthropists to improve human health by linking agriculture and food production to wellness and disease prevention through microbiome research. Benson is a pioneer in studying the gut microbiome as a complex trait, demonstrating how individual host genetic factors control microbial species that make up the microbiome. He has received more than $25 million in competitive grant funding and in 2019 was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. He serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for Neogen’s genomics operations and serves as a consultant and expert witness for applications of bacterial genomics and population genetics in litigation for foodborne outbreaks and product labeling.

Portrait of Andy Benson.
Andy Benson

Amanda Ramer-Tait Nebraska Food for Health Center – University of Nebraska Lincoln

Amanda Ramer-Tait is an Associate Professor of Immunology and Microbiology in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She received her BS in Biochemistry from Western Kentucky University and her PhD in Immunobiology from Iowa State University. Her research focuses on understanding host-microbiota interactions. In particular, her research program aims to: (1) determine the causative relationships between the gut microbiota and chronic, inflammatory diseases, (2) understand how dietary interventions, including dietary fibers, can be used to improve inflammatory diseases via modulation of the gut microbiota, and (3) develop new approaches to disease prevention and treatment that include microbiome manipulation. Dr. Ramer-Tait is a founding member of the Nebraska Food for Health Center and director of the Nebraska Gnotobiotic Mouse Program. She also teaches graduate-level courses about immunology, microbiology and functional foods and co-directs the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Complex Biosystems graduate program. Dr. Ramer-Tait has authored over 70 peer-reviewed publications and received research funding from the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the US Department of Agriculture.

Portrait of Amanda Ramer-Tait .
Amanda Ramer-Tait

Bob Hutkins Nebraska Food for Health Center – University of Nebraska Lincoln

Bob Hutkins is the Khem Shahani Professor of Food Microbiology in the Food Science and Technology Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The Hutkins Lab studies bacteria important in human health and in fermented foods. His group is particularly interested in understanding factors affecting persistence and colonization of these microbes in the gastrointestinal tract and how probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics can improve human health. Dr. Hutkins is a global expert in the science of fermented foods and the author of the textbook Microbiology and Technology of Fermented Foods, a well-known resource in the field.

Portrait of Bob Hutkins.
Bob Hutkins

Kurt Piepenbrink Nebraska Food for Health Center – University of Nebraska Lincoln

Kurt Piepenbrink is Assistant Professor in the Departments of Food Science and Technology and Biochemistry at University of Nebraska -Lincoln. The overall goal for his research program is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which bacteria interact with their surroundings, including host cells, other bacteria, abiotic surfaces and extracellular structures. In particular, he and his lab members seek to explain the phenotypic differences between bacterial strains of similar genetic background; using structural biology to probe the mechanistic basis for bacterial adhesion, surface motility, DNA uptake and biofilm formation. His current focus is on type IV filaments, a class of extracellular appendages common to a wide range of bacteria, both Gram-positive and Gram-negative.

Portrait of Kurt Piepenbrink.
Kurt Piepenbrink

Jennifer Auchtung Nebraska Food for Health Center – University of Nebraska Lincoln

Jennifer Auchtung, PhD, is Assistant Professor in the Food Science and Technology Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and member of the Nebraska Food for Health Center. Her lab studies how interactions between the gastrointestinal microbiome, the host and its diet influence susceptibility to enteric pathogens. Jennifer obtained her PhD in molecular genetics and microbiology with Alan Grossman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and completed post-doctoral training in microbial ecology and microbial pathogenesis with James Tiedje and Robert Britton, respectively, at Michigan State University. Prior to her time at UNL, Jennifer was an Assistant Professor (non-tenure) in the Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research at Baylor College of Medicine where she helped to establish the Cultivation Core as a service facility for in vitro isolation and characterization of gastrointestinal bacteria.

Portrait of Jennifer Auchtung.
Jennifer Auchtung

David Hyten Nebraska Food for Health Center – University of Nebraska Lincoln

David Hyten is Associate Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Associate Department Head for the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture where he has been a faculty member since 2015. He holds the Haskins Professor of Plant Genetics and is a member of the Center for Plant Science Innovation and the Nebraska Food for Health Center.His primary research interests include developing genomic knowledge and tools to enhance the rate of genetic gain within soybean breeding programs. Prior to joining the University of Nebraska, Dr. Hyten worked at DuPont Pioneer as a Senior Research Manager and at the USDA, Agricultural Research Service, as a Research Geneticist. Dr. Hyten earned his PhD specializing in Crop Genetics from the University of Maryland and his MS degree specializing in Plant Breeding and Genetics from the University of Tennessee.

Portrait of David Hyten.
David Hyten

Susan Mitmesser Pharmavite

Susan Hazels Mitmesser, PhD, is VP, Science and Pharmavite, LLC.Dr. Mitmesser provides scientific leadership at Pharmavite to advance innovation and new product development strategies, and to ensure the scientific integrity of all products made under its brand portfolio. She brings extensive experience in research and nutritional biochemistry across various industries and sectors, including food, dietary supplements, academia and clinical settings. She serves on the Editorial Board of four peer-reviewed journals:Advance Journal of Food Science and Technology, Journal of Pediatric IntensiveCare, World Journal of Clinical Pediatrics, and Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. In addition, she has published in many peer-reviewed journals and is a contributing author for book chapters relating to nutrition in adult and pediatric populations.Dr. Mitmesser is an active member of the American Society of Nutrition, theAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science, and the New YorkAcademy of Sciences. She also serves on the Senior Scientific Advisory Council for the Council for Responsible Nutrition.Currently, Dr. Mitmesser is an adjunct professor in the Department of NutritionSciences at the University of Connecticut and in the Gerald J. and Dorothy R.Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. She holds aPhD in Nutrition from the University of Nebraska.

Portrait of Susan Mitmesser.
Susan Mitmesser

Mark Morrison The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute

Mark Morrison’s scientific expertise resides in the fields of microbial physiology, genetics and genomics, with a career-long focus on the gastrointestinal microbiota of humans and other herbivores. During his academic tenure in the USA, he led the team that produced the first genome sequences for gut Ruminococcus and Prevotella spp., with both genera now widely acknowledged to play a key role in establishing human gut “enterotypes”. He returned to Australia in 2006 as a CSIRO Science Leader, leading the gut health stream of their Preventative Health Flagship Program, and one of CSIRO’s five Capability Platforms (in Transformational Biology). He joined the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute in October 2013,and is currently science lead for gastrointestinal function with the Princess Alexandra Hospital’s Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and microbiome research for the new Australian National Health and Medical Research Council’s Centre for Research Excellence in Digestive Health. He is also Australia’s science representative to the International Human Microbiome Consortium, and serves on other international academic and industry advisory boards for gut microbiome research.

Portrait of Mark Morrison.
Mark Morrison

Laure Bindels Universite Catholique de Louvain, Belgium

Laure Bindels is a pharmacist who trained at the Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium. During her PhD, she focussed her research on the therapeutic interest of prebiotics and probiotics in the control of tumour progression and associated cachexia. She then moved to a postdoctoral position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA, where she studied the role of the gut microbiota in the metabolic benefits of resistant starches. Dr. Bindels is now an Assistant Professor at the Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium, where she is exploring the contribution of bacterial metabolites, derived from the gut microbiota, to metabolic and inflammatory disorders associated with cancer.

Portrait of Laure Bindels.
Laure Bindels

Peter Mannon University of Nebraska Medical Center

Peter Mannon, MD,is Professor of Medicine, Chief of the Gastroenterology and Hepatology Division and Director of the Paustian Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. His translational research focuses on identifying endophenotypes of IBD that can predict treatment response, studying the clonotype sharing of microbial-antigen reactive T cells in Crohn’s disease, and is defining the features of the gut microbial and metabolomic signatures that predict the development of metabolic syndrome after solid organ transplantation.

Portrait of Peter Mannon.
Peter Mannon

Derrick Samuelson University of Nebraska Medical Center

Derrick Samuelson, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep. Dr. Samuelson received his PhD from Washington State University, before completing his postdoctoral research at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. Dr. Samuelson is currently funded by a K99/R00 award from the NIH/NIAAA. The research in Dr. Samuelson’s laboratory is directed toward understanding the mechanisms by which the intestinal microbiota regulates pulmonary host defense against respiratory pathogens, with the goal of defining the intestinal microbial constituents that mediate pulmonary host defense against respiratory pathogens.

Portrait of Derrick Samuelson.
Derrick Samuelson

Jill Hochstein Nebraska Food for Health Center – University of Nebraska Lincoln

Jill Hochstein is the Technical Project Manager at Nebraska Food for Health Center (NFHC). Her primary duties include managing the research output/product development lifecycle for NFHC and the Maize Genetics Program. She works with multiple campuses on the NFHC pipeline and MGP infrastructure to ensure effective communication for discovery, translational animal models, and human clinical trials. During her 20 years at UNL, Hochstein was Project Manager for numerous grants with the USDA, NSF, and USGS, as well as working with Office of Research and Nebraska Educational Television. She holds a BA in Business & Computer Science and MS in Agriculture Leadership from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Portrait of Jill Hochstein.
Jill Hochstein

Doug Carr Nebraska University Foundation

Doug Carr is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications. He joined the University of Nebraska Foundation in 2017 and has extensive experience in video production, advertising, sales and marketing, primarily in the field of agribusiness. Doug’s fundraising efforts are focused on the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) within the University of Nebraska.

Portrait of Doug Carr.
Doug Carr

Jessie Brophy University of Nebraska Lincoln

Jessie Brophy is the Director of External Engagement and Special Events at the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has more than 20 years’ experience planning and executing diverse and high-impact events and conferences. She provides leadership and serves as a resource for professional staff members throughout the institute in the areas of events, engagement, fundraising and outreach. As the external engagement strategist, she works closely with diverse audiences including stakeholders, donors, alumni, commodity groups, community organization and government leaders, to effectively leverage resources to advance Nebraska’s economy, education and quality of life, collaborate with partners in which engagement is beneficial to both parties, and increase awareness of IANR. Brophy is a UNL alum and has a master’s in business management.

Portrait of Jessie Brophy.
Jessie Brophy

Kristina Campbell KC Microbiome Communications Group

Kristina Campbell, a science and medical writer from Victoria, Canada, works to integrate microbiome science into various educational and policy initiatives. She specializes in creating resources for health professionals on emerging translational aspects of the gut microbiome, probiotics, and prebiotics. Campbell writes about microbiome science and gut health for online and print media throughout Europe and North America, and currently serves as contributing editor at Microbiome Times; she is also co-author of a textbook called Gut Microbiota: Interactive Effects on Nutrition and Health, and author of The Well-Fed Microbiome. She holds degrees from University of Toronto and University of British Columbia.

Portrait of Kristina Campbell.
Kristina Campbell