Produce Safety Lab



Camila Rodrigues

Assistant Professor & Fresh Produce Food Safety Specialist

2012 B.S. – Pharmacy, University Center of Maringa, PR, Brazil.
2013 M.S. – Biosciences and Pathophysiology, State University of Maringa, PR, Brazil.
2019 Ph.D. – Food Science & Human Nutrition, University of Florida, FL, USA.

Dr. Rodrigues’s research program is focused on identifying potential sources of fresh produce contamination during production while implementing mitigation strategies to minimize the risk of produce contamination on conventional, organic, and soilless farming systems. Dr. Rodrigues has been funded through USDA programs to work on microbial water quality, food safety for hydroponic and aquaponic, sanitation practices during pre-and post-harvest practices, and the use of innovative strategies to ensure safe-to-eat, high quality products for existing and new high value markets. She also has a collaborative project with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention funded by the Center for Produce Safety to conduct research related to the prevalence of Cyclospora cayetanensis in produce growing areas. As a part of an interdisciplinary team, Dr Rodrigues’s outreach program is focused on developing educational material, specialized food safety programs, and training to assist growers, producers, and stakeholders to improve and promote food safety practices for fruit and vegetable production. During her free time (when possible), Dr. Rodrigues loves spending time with her family and adventuring in outdoor activities.

Caroline Blanchard

Research Associate II

2017 B.S. — Plant and Soil Systems, Louisiana State University
2019 M.S. — Horticulture, Auburn University

Caroline Blanchard grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 2017, she received her B.S. in Plant and Soil Systems from Louisiana State University before pursuing a Master’s degree in Horticulture at Auburn University. After working as a garden manager for an indoor hydroponic farm in Huntsville, Alabama, she returned to Auburn as a Research Associate for the Horticulture Department. She helps graduate students and researchers with experimental design and setup, data collection, and data analysis. Outside of helping in the lab, Caroline likes to hike, read, and garden.

Graduate Students


Zoila Chevez

Ph.D. Student

2018 B.S. — Food Science & Technology, Zamorano University, Honduras
2021 M.S. — Food Science, Auburn University, United States

Zoila’s main research is on agricultural water. Her current research and dissertation project assess the prevalence of pathogenic Escherichia coli (STEC) and Salmonella in agricultural water from fresh produce farms in Alabama and Georgia. Some of the laboratory analyses that we conduct for this project include PCR, gel electrophoresis, and enumeration of generic E. coli with IDEXX Colilert Test. Zoila holds a certification from the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) that allows her to train produce growers on food safety practices. Outside of the lab and academic activities, she likes to travel, cook, hike, and play volleyball.


Jessica Hoffsteter

Ph.D. Student

  • 2012 B.S – Human Nutrition, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
  • 2016 M.S – Food Science, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

Jessica graduated with her master’s in food science from the University of Georgia, she then completed a molecular parasitology fellowship at the Centers for Disease control and Prevention after which she worked as a food safety scientist at Kraft Heinz for a few years. The allure of foodborne parasite research called her back to CDC, where she is now working on her Ph.D. project focused on pathogen detection, including Cyclospora cayetanensis, and sources in irrigation water. Jessica is FSPCA certified in Preventive Controls for Human food, USDA HACCP Development and Implementation certified, FDA Seafood HACCP certified, and has attended Better Process Cheese School at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Outside of work Jessica enjoys learning about data analysis, and paddle boarding.


Vania Mickos

Master Student

  • 2021 B.S. —Agronomy, Pontifical Catholic University of Parana, PR, Brazil

Vania Paula Mickos grew up in Parana, Brazil where she studied Agronomy at the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná. During her undergraduate studies, she completed an internship with the Secretary of Agriculture in her hometown in Brazil. She also participated in an Agricultural Exchange in Denmark from December 2019 to December 2020 on a nursery farm. Vania has been exposed in agriculture and vegetable production in the past years. She discovered her love for sustainable production in agriculture and the use biocontrol methods. Her research and background experience led her to enroll in the Master’s program at Auburn University, where she is currently working on biological control for fresh produce food safety. Vania’s research aims to persuade farmers to adopt biological control (such as bacteriophages) in the production side to prevent pathogen bacteria on vegetables. Outside of work, she enjoys travel, meet new people and learn about different cultures. Also, she is a plant lover.

Jessica Pizzo

Visiting Research Scholar

2014 B.S. — Chemistry, State University of Maringa, PR, Brazil.
2015 – 2017 Project management specialization—State University of Maringa, PR, Brazil.
2019 M.S. — Chemistry, State University of Maringa, PR, Brazil.
2019 to Present Ph.D. student— Sciences (concentration area: Analytical Chemistry), State University of Maringa, PR, Brazil.

Jessica dos Santos Pizzo was born and raised in Maringa, Parana, Brazil. She received her B.S. with honors in Chemistry from UEM in 2015. Her passion for research started during her masters at the APLE-A (analytics applied to lipids, sterols, and antioxidants) Laboratory of the State University of Maringa (UEM). During her Ph.D., Jessica developed and applied atmospheric solids analysis probe mass spectrometry (ASAP-MS) for rapid and direct determination of the lipid profile of food and cosmetic matrices. Her areas of expertise include food and cosmetics analysis with an emphasis on ultra-efficient liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometer (UPLC-MS/MS), gas chromatography with flame ionization detector (GC-FID), direct analysis by electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS), and ASAP-MS. Currently, she is a visiting research scholar at Auburn University under the supervision of Dr. Rodrigues. Her main research is investigating the use of novel natural antimicrobials against Escherichia coli and Salmonella on the postharvest washing of fresh produce. Jessica is passionate about food and cosmetic research.






Assistant Extension Professor
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