Kathryn J. Boor is the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Cornell University. As Cornell CALS’ chief academic and administrative officer, Dr. Boor is responsible for developing and implementing the strategic direction of the college, which has 350 faculty, 3,600 undergraduate students and 980 graduate students. She shares responsibility for leading Cornell Cooperative Extension throughout New York State with the Dean of Cornell's College of Human Ecology. Since Dr. Boor’s appointment as dean in 2010, Cornell CALS has ranked consistently among the top three global universities in agricultural, plant and animal sciences. Under her leadership, the college has experienced record growth in external research dollars garnered by the faculty as well as in numbers of undergraduate applications. Dr. Boor’s research focuses on identifying biological factors that affect transmission of bacteria in food systems, from farm to table. She established the Food Safety Laboratory at Cornell University; her group has published more than 170 peer-reviewed manuscripts. Her team identified seminal evidence linking bacterial environmental stress response with virulence gene expression in the foodborne pathogen, Listeria monocytogenes. Dr. Boor earned a BS in Food Science from Cornell University, an MS in Food Science from the University of Wisconsin and a PhD in Microbiology from the University of California, Davis. She joined the Cornell Food Science department as assistant professor in 1994 as its first female faculty member and led as department chair from 2007-2010. Dr. Boor is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, the International Academy of Food Science and Technology, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She received an honorary doctorate from Harper Adams University in the United Kingdom in 2016.
The increasingly competitive nature of the food and beverage market highlights the need for improvement of dairy product quality, variety, and availability to ensure the economic vitality of the dairy industry. To work toward meeting these challenges, I have established an integrated research and extension program in dairy microbiology quality and safety which is dedicated to improving dairy product shelf-life, wholesomeness and safety through reduction of spoilage and pathogenic bacteria in processed products and in raw milk. The long-term objective of this program is the creation of an integrated and interactive University/regulatory agency/dairy industry network to protect dairy product safety and quality. The specific foci of my research program are to identify and characterize factors that affect the presence and persistence of spoilage and pathogenic organisms in food products intended for human consumption. My strategies integrate the tools of molecular biology and phenotypic microbiology to: (i) explore factors linking the ability of bacteria to survive under various conditions, including in foods and in food processing environments, with bacterial ability to cause human and animal disease; and (ii) rapidly identify and track spoilage and pathogenic bacteria in food systems. My program targets the long-term food quality and safety needs of the food and dairy processing industries and facilitates rapid translation and communication of research results to these industries. The major impacts from these programs will be (i) continued discovery and application of new information for production of high quality, wholesome dairy and food products; (ii) an improved understanding of the cellular mechanisms contributing to bacterial survival under widely varying environmental conditions; and (iii) training of highly qualified students for employment in dairy- and food-related sectors of industry, government, and academia.
Outreach and Extension Focus
The dairy foods extension team specializes in delivering research driven, science-based educational programs for all sectors of the NYS and Northeastern dairy foods industry, from farm to consumer. The Milk Quality Improvement Program, which is funded by NYS dairy farmer check-off dollars, works in collaboration with the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets to provide a multi-pronged, non-regulatory, educational approach for improving dairy product quality. Cornell food scientists sample and evaluate the microbiological, sensory, and chemical characteristics of fluid milk products manufactured in processing plants throughout New York State and provide timely and direct feedback, including plant visits for targeted trouble-shooting, to enable product quality improvement by visiting each plant in NYS twice a year. Impact and success are measured by monitoring the numbers of plants participating in our program as well as changes in the measured quality of the products that are sampled. Cornell also coordinates programs for dairy industry professionals through the New York State Cheese Manufacturers’ Association, the New York State Association for Food Protection, the American Dairy Science Association, and the International Association for Food Protection. Impact and success are monitored by tracking numbers of attendees over the years as well as by surveying program participants.
Awards and Honors
- Research Award in Dairy Foods Processing () The American Dairy Sciences Association
- Honorary Doctorate (2016) Harper Adams University, United Kingdom
- Emmett R. Gauhn Memorial Award (2012) New York State Association for Food Protection
- David K. Bandler Cheese Industry Award (2011) New York State Cheese Manufacturers’ Association
- Fellow, Biological Sciences (2016) American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)