UACES Facebook Division of Agriculture’s 2024 Future of Food fellowship open for application
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Division of Agriculture’s 2024 Future of Food fellowship open for application

Nov. 28, 2023

By John Lovett
University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station

Fast facts

  • 10-week program invites undergraduates to learn more about food science
  • Program for undergraduates at institutions without a food science program
  • Fellowship supported by five-year, USDA-NIFA grant

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The 2024 Future of Food: Opportunities and Careers for Undergraduate Students session is open for application through Feb. 2.

F2OCUS Fellows on team-building obstacle course
F2OCUS FELLOWSHIP — 2023 F2OCUS fellowship members take part in a team-building exercise at the Vines Center near Little Rock. Application for the 2024 F2OCUS program is open through Feb. 2. (U of A System Division of Agriculture photo)

Dubbed F2OCUS for short, the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture program offers undergraduates opportunities to develop scientific research experience, team building, leadership and communications skills over 10 weeks in the summer.

Interested students can apply at the F2OCUS program website. Room and board are provided on the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville campus, along with a $5,150 stipend and travel support. Eight undergraduate students will be chosen by Feb. 16, and the program begins in June.

F2OCUS is directed by Kristen Gibson, professor of food safety and microbiology and director of the Center for Food Safety for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the Division of Agriculture.

“Each year, we are getting more applicants,” Gibson said. “We’re bringing in people from other areas of the country and universities that are really high performers and exposing them to food science and the food industry in Arkansas.”

The program is supported by a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Gibson said a goal of the program is to provide underserved students and institutions the opportunity to experience various aspects of food science and the food industry, including minority-serving institutions.

In addition to scientific research with Division of Agriculture faculty, F2OCUS fellows also receive leadership development and communications coaching with support from the Cooperative Extension Service, the outreach arm of the Division of Agriculture.

F2OCUS fellow experiences include the ExCEL course at the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center near Little Rock, which features a high-ropes course and zipline, as well as visits to the Tyson Discovery Center and the annual Blackberry Field Day in June at the experiment station’s Fruit Research Station near Clarksville.

F2OCUS co-directors include Jennifer Acuff, assistant professor of food microbiology and safety; Jamie Baum, associate professor of nutrition for the experiment station; and Jill Rucker, associate professor of agricultural education, communications and technology for the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas.

The program partners with 12 collaborating mentors who have extensive experience in food science. Industry professionals, many of whom are University of Arkansas graduates and serve as adjunct faculty, also participate in the fellowship program.

Gibson, who also serves as a mentor, matches students with a research mentor based on the students' interests, such as food chemistry, food engineering or food safety. Available projects set for 2024 can be found on the website’s Research Projects page.

Fellowship testimonial

Nick Stall, a 2023 F2OCUS fellow from Louisiana State University, said the program offered professional and personal development and guidance on his career path. Networking with food industry professionals, he said, helped him change his focus in a way that he thinks will help him reach his dream job someday.

“Some of the most important experiences I had were meeting individuals in the food industry, discussing with them what they do daily and building networking skills,” Stall said. “I was not considering a master’s degree before I started the program. However, I have changed my mind after talking and working alongside other graduate students and mentors. I am working to find the exact master’s program that matches what I want to do for a career.”

Stall said the fellowship’s research component was challenging but improved the experience. He also found it helpful to see firsthand all the different majors working in the food industry.

“This industry, like every other one, is growing and realizing the amount of value and innovation other majors can bring to the table,” Stall said. “I know from personal experience. I started out in engineering, but I have always had a passion and love for food, and I know I can find a home in the industry that combines both of my passions.”

The F2OCUS program is supported by USDA-NIFA grant number 2022-68018-36612.

To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk. To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.


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Media Contact: John Lovett
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station
(479) 763-5929