This past month at the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety, we had a visiting researcher from the Universidad Tecnológica del Centro de Veracruz. Dr. Cuervo sat down with us for a short interview about herself and her life experiences in the food safety field.
Mary Pia Cuervo: My name is Mary Pia Cuervo and I am an Assistant Professor at the Universidad Tecnológica del Centro de Veracruz. I was born in Mexico City and grew up in a smaller city in the State of Veracruz on the east coast of Mexico. This is where I currently live with my husband Luis and my 9-month old son, Sebastian.
CFS: Can you describe your path to this point in your career?
MC: After I received my B.S. in Food Engineering from Monterrey Tech, I moved to College Station to join the Food Science and Technology Master’s program at Texas A&M University, under the supervision of Dr. Alejandro Castillo. During that time, I had the opportunity to teach some Food Microbiology courses as a Teaching Assistant Completing the M.S. program left me more interested about the Food Microbiology world, and for that reason I decided to join the Ph.D. program with Dr. Castillo as my major professor and supported by the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACyT), Mexico. After finishing my Ph.D., I spent a year working at the Mars Petcare Research and Development Center in Kansas City, MO. After that, I joined the Food Engineering faculty at the Universidad Tecnológica del Centro de Veracruz as an Assistant Professor, the position I currently hold.
CFS: What sparked your interest in the food safety field?
MC: I remember being curious about Food Safety even as a teenager, even though I wasn’t aware of Food Safety as a profession. For instance, when I visited NASA at the age of 13, I became amazed when learning about the extended shelf life and rigorous food safety of the astronauts’ food.
Later on in high school, I toured the National Institute of Nuclear Investigations, which has the first gamma irradiation facility in Mexico. During that visit, I learned about this technology and how it is used to treat spices as well as medical supplies. That visit is what triggered my interest in getting involved in the food production field, and helped me decide what to major in.
During my undergraduate education, I attended a HACCP seminar given by Dr. Verónica Navarro from the University of Guadalajara. From there on, I became more and more attracted to the food safety field.
CFS: Please tell us about the work you have done during your time here at the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety.
MC: During my time at the CFS, I was trilled to have the opportunity to familiarize myself with some of the state-of-the-art equipment that was available, and worked on two co-authored publications with some of the Center’s members. Additionally, I was delighted to become familiar with potential methodologies for some of the projects that I am currently working on at the Universidad Tecnológica del Centro de Veracruz. The opportunity to establish relationships and connections for future collaborative projects was very promising.
CFS: What was it like growing up in your home country?
MC: I grew up in a small city on the east coast of Mexico. Orizaba’s population is about 100,000 and many diverse ethnicities are represented. The city’s surroundings are an important agricultural producing region and the farmers bring their harvest to the city markets every week, where people usually meet and purchase their meat and produce. Orizaba is home to two public universities, which brings a unique college town atmosphere to the area. Overall, it was a great place to grow up.
CFS: Is there anything in particular that you have enjoyed about the Texas culture?
MC: After living in Texas for almost six years and having numerous friends from the area, I find the similarities between our cultures fascinating, specifically in regard to family values.
I enjoyed my visit to the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety from both a professional and personal perspective. Finally, I would like to thank the CFS for allowing me to spend time here. It was a very rewarding experience!
The Texas A&M Center for Food Safety would like to thank Dr. Mary Pia Cuervo for her time spent here. We wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.