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From the Bench to the Table

I consider myself adventurous when it comes to trying new foods. I enjoy traveling to foreign countries, whether representing USC Dornsife or with my family, introducing my children to exotic flavors. I delight in opening a menu that must be translated for me, or returning to a favorite restaurant and ordering “the usual.”

But I always keep in mind that in many parts of the world — including this country — people do not have the luxury of perusing menus. They struggle to have enough sustenance to survive. As much as a liberal arts curriculum is centered on in-class instruction, it must offer students the opportunity to learn firsthand about the world they don’t see every day.

At USC Dornsife, we encourage undergraduate and graduate students to engage in problem-based research. We challenge them to delve deeply into issues such as food security and malnutrition, as well as obesity and diabetes, from all perspectives — whether through biology, history, public health, psychology, or environmental studies.

In my laboratory, for example, we focus on manipulating plants at the molecular level so we can grow more robust crops that amidst a changing climate can serve the needs of an expanding human population.

My research has given me a deeper appreciation of food as something to be both relished and respected. Growing up in Jersey, a small island off the coast of France, I was taught to appreciate fresh seafood and our locally grown vegetables. I believe one of the best ways to connect with other people — and with ourselves — is to sit down over a meal and share the tastes, company and nourishment.

That is why it is so important to me, through my science and in my own life, to support a healthy food culture worldwide — enriching people’s lives, both body and mind.

Steve Kay
Dean of USC Dornsife
Anna H. Bing Dean’s Chair