Lincoln, Neb. — Curtis Weller, who has led the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln since 2016, will step down from the position to return to the faculty. This transition will take effect July 1, 2024.
Weller, a professor of food science and technology and biological systems engineering, became the interim head of the department in 2016 and was named the permanent department head in March of 2017.
During his tenure as department head, the UNL Dairy Store moved into a new, expanded location and the dairy processing plant moved from East Campus into a state-of-the-art facility on Innovation Campus. The department also gained research momentum across a wide scope of topics including gut microbiology, food allergen detection, food processing for safety and health, among others.
Weller also helped shepherd the 3+1 food science program, an innovative partnership between UNL and Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University in Yangling, China, through the COVID-19 pandemic and a subsequent period of increased tension between the United States and China. Students enrolled in the program have the opportunity to learn from UNL faculty, both in their native country and at UNL.
The world is increasingly connected, and the issues facing Nebraska are echoed around the globe, Weller said. That makes international partnerships like the 3+1 program invaluable.
“There are a lot of people on the planet,” he said. “Getting people nutritious food isn’t only a Nebraska problem and isn’t only a U.S. problem. Food is food.”
Weller’s post-department head plans including teaching a new course exploring food preservation and packaging that has been in the works for several years. He is also interested in pursuing research and outreach in the area of hygienic design of food processing equipment.
“UNL’s Food Science and Technology Department is a better place because of Dr. Weller’s dedicated, steady and collaborative leadership,” said Mike Boehm, NU vice president and Harlan Vice Chancellor for UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “I’m grateful for his contributions to the department, and I look forward to his future contributions in the classroom and the lab.”
Prior to becoming department head, Weller taught classes in both the biological systems engineering and food science and technology departments at UNL. He conducted research in areas including modeling heat transfer in meat and meat products; development of grain sorghum lipids as nutraceuticals and developing value-added processing of agricultural commodities. He obtained undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
A national search will be launched to for the next department head later on this fall. For more information on the Food Science and Technology Department, visit https://foodscience.unl.edu.