Staff Researchers

Current Graduate Students
Morrine Omolo
Tong Ding
Justin Wiertzema
Andrew Carter
Grant Hedblom
Past Graduate Students
Holly Reiland
Zachary Metz



Morrine Omolo, MS 2015

PhD Candidate 2016-

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Graduate Student and Researcher


Morrine Omolo is a Zawadi Africa Educational Fund Scholar and the 2012 Fairleigh Dickinson University Pinnacle Award and International Undergraduate Student Award recipient. She graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University in May 2012 with a BSc. in Biochemistry, and is scheduled to begin her MSc. Food Science at the University of Minnesota in the Spring of 2014.

In her Honors Thesis titled 1-ethyl-3 methylimidazolium tetrafloroborate ([EMIM]BF4) used to wire cholesterol oxidase for use in a biosensor, she determined that the ionic liquid 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium tetrafloroborate can be successfully used in place of organic solvents. In addition she studied the kinetics of cholesterol oxidase modified through molecular wiring. She tested the performance of the modified enzyme on cholesterol breakdown and discovered that molecular wiring improved the kinetics of cholesterol oxidase.

Her areas of interest are food safety, processing and packaging. With the increased use of artificial preservatives in the food industry, the discovery of naturally occurring alternatives would be invaluable to food scientists. Her MS research focuses on the antimicrobial activity of over 90 types of chili peppers, and the potential for their use as food preservatives. The antimicrobial activity of these chili peppers are currently being tested against virulent food borne pathogens such as Salmonella spp., Listeria spp. , and E. coli. Other foods: vegetables, dairy foods, and commonly found meat products will be investigated as well.

Morrine is passionate about girl child education and poverty eradication through sustainable “home-made” solutions. As a member of Zawadi Africa Education Fund, she is committed to mentoring young girls, especially those interested in STEM fields.

In her free time, Morrine likes to read books by Sydney Sheldon. She enjoys watching detective series such as ID, Law and Order, NCIS and CSI.


1. Omolo, MA, Reiland, HA., Case, K., Hastings, J., Le, N., Wong, Z-Z., Mergan, A., and D.J. Baumler. Antimicrobial properties of Chili Peppers. (2014) J. of Infectious Disease and Therapy. (In press).

2. Reiland, HA, Omolo, MA, Johnson, TJ, and D.J. Baumler. (2014) A survey of Escherichia coli O157:H7 virulence factors: The first 25 years and 13 genomes. Advances in Microbiology Journal. (In press).


Tong Ding

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Tong Ding is the 2014 AIC Student Award and F. B. Moore Award recipie

nt during her honor program at University of Minnesota Duluth for B.S. in Biochemistry & Molecular B

iology and Chemistry. She joined the Baumler Lab after graduation and started her M.S. program in Food Science at University of Minnesota Twin Cities in 2014.

Currently, Tong’s research project focuses on Salmonella, a common foodborne pathogen that may cause severe consequences. To better understand the virulence characters and mechanisms of different S

almonella subspecies, Tong is going to analyze the genome, protein and reaction information of specific Salmonella strains using computational Genome-scale Metabolic Models. Meanwhile, she is going to conduct experiments to verify the constructed models based on the host specificity property of the microbes.

Tong likes cooking, and she enjoyed playing flute and drawing in her free time. Tong’s interest in Food Science comes from her concern on human diseases caused by foodborne pathogens and her pride of the tasty beer produced by her hometown Qingdao (Tsingtao).


Justin Wiertzema, PhD candidate 2015-


Andrew Carter, PhD candidate 2016-


Grant Hedblom, PhD candidate 2016-


Baumler Lab Alumni

Holly ReilandHolly Reiland, MS 2016
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Holly Reiland is an internal Skarra Fellowship recipient. She graduated from the University of Minnesota in May 2014 with a BSc. in Food Science. Holly began her MSc. Studies in the Fall of 2014.

Holly has participated in many aspects of the Food Science department. She has taken part in writing several published pieces of work (see list below) and she has conducted her own undergraduate research project in which she tested protein and carbohydrate supplementation on human subjects while completing an endurance run. She found significant results that showed a heightened degree of GI tract upset upon ingestion of protein supplements prior to an endurance run.

Holly has also studied abroad, participated in International Food Technologist Student Association product development competitions at the national level, and worked in several labs within the food science department.

Holly’s greater interests include combining food science and nutrition into one holistic area of study. She enjoys the chemistry behind constituents and flavors that are found in foods as well as how these constituents interact during metabolism. Her research focuses on using computational biology in order to construct a metabolic model that accurately predicts the growth of a segmented filamentous bacteria entitled Candidatus Arthromitus. The model will be validated via experiments carried out in the lab. The overall goal of her work is to design a culture medium from the in silico model in order to grow CA in vitro and optimize growth in vitro in order to create a probiotic containing this commensal bacteria.

Holly has a wide variety of interests and an overall desire to learn and continue her education. In her free time, she avidly trains for marathons year-round and leads a fitness program that meets on Wednesday mornings entitled The November Project TM.


zachary metzZachary Metz, MS 2016





Zach Metz graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in May of 2013 with a Bachelor’s of Chemical Engineering. He began working towards his Food Science MS in September 2014.

His areas of interest are food processing, safety, quality, and product development. His research will focus of Listeria spp. with an emphasis on L. monocytogenes an important foodborne pathogen. A genome scale metabolic model will be created for several strains of L. monocytogenes and one strain of L. innocua. The models will be verified in the laboratory and used to study the differences between strains in food environments that have been known to harbor Listeria. This will hopefully lead to a better understanding of Listeria as well as improved methods of controlling its presence in food.

In his free time, Zach enjoys eating the same thing for lunch every day, playing sports, reading, and playing video games.