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Contamination Detective

Graduate student Riya Magiya follows her instincts to become an expert in food safety.

a young woman in a purple cover gown in a lab
CALS graduate student Riya Magiya

A passion for cooking sparked Riya Magiya’s interests in nutrition and food safety. The graduate student in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences (FBNS) is pursuing a master’s degree in food science and a minor in food safety.

“I’ve always been interested in understanding sanitation and allergens,” says Magiya. “I went into culinary, loved it, but wanted the scientific part and to understand the overall importance of food safety.”

Prior to coming to North Carolina State University, the Hong Kong native did two years of undergraduate studies at the University of Massachusetts and then two years at Florida International University.

“I got into the hospitality program at FIU and did that for a year before realizing I didn’t like it. I started teaching culinary to students and received some food safety certificates,” says Magiya. After completing the certifications, she began incorporating that into her curriculum. Then the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“I did not want to be in Miami anymore and I thought I might as well go into food science so, I applied to NC State,” says Magiya. She was accepted into the program as a non-thesis student and packed everything she had into her car and moved to Raleigh.

After a year at NC State, FBNS department head K.P. Sandeep wanted to learn more about Magiya’s interests in food science and food safety. 

“I told him I really want something in food safety but I don’t want to focus on research and development or sensory because I already have some experience in explaining food safety protocols.”

So Sandeep introduced Magiya to Lynette Johnston, assistant professor and food safety Extension specialist. After meeting Johnston, Magiya switched from the non-thesis program to the full master’s program. 

“Doing a thesis is part of the requirement for earning the food safety minor,” explains Magiya. As part of her thesis, she’s working on an environmental monitoring program and developing a sanitation training curriculum for small- to medium-sized food processors. Her work stems from a program that Johnston created called LIVe, which stands for learning, implementation and verification. 

“I’m focused on the L and I side. We created a training program for facilities where we swab surfaces to see if there are any environmental contaminants such as Listeria or Salmonella.” Magiya says part of her work is teaching employees how to properly swab surfaces themselves via in-person training and YouTube videos. Essentially these videos will be easy how-tos for industry professionals.

The detective side of food safety inspections and audits gets Magiya excited about the work she is doing. When she graduates in fall 2022, Magiya will head to Boston to work as a quality assurance compliance specialist for Chew, a food and beverage innovation consulting company.

Interested in studying food safety and earning the food safety minor from NC State? Email Fernanda Santos at