Amanda Stewart (right) will join Molly Kelly (left) at Virginia Tech, where the pair will expand upon the enology research and extension work formerly done by Bruce Zoecklein.
—Starting Aug. 12, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
will have a full enology team in place, just in time for the 2013 harvest. That’s the day that Dr. Amanda Stewart will officially assume the position of assistant professor of enology and fermentation in the Department of Food Sciences at Virginia Tech. Stewart will work closely with Molly Kelly, who assumed responsibility
for the department’s enology extension programs Dec. 25, 2012.
When Dr. Bruce Zoecklein retired in 2010 as professor of food science and technology and became professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, he was immediately rehired as a consultant for two years to help determine how to set up the enology program at the university for the future. In an attempt to meet the needs of both the university and the Virginia wine industry, Department of Food Science chairman Dr. Joe Marcy and Virginia Tech’s dean Alan Grant decided that Zoecklein’s position should be replaced with two faculty positions: one for enology extension and another for enology teaching and research.
Stewart says she will work closely with Kelly, both on new projects and to continue projects initially started by Zoecklein. In addition to her enology research and teaching, Stewart will also look for ways to work with the subjects of wine and health with the university’s department of nutrition. “I need to see what the department is doing now and how wine can fit in. Potentially, we can look at how fermented foods affect nutrition and digestion, how some antioxidant-rich fruits such as grapes affect digestive and gut health, and how fermented foods affect gut microbes.”
As an undergraduate at Purdue University, Stewart worked for Ellie Butz, enology extension specialist in the Department of Food Sciences. After receiving a master’s degree in agricultural and biological engineering from Purdue in 2004, she worked for a bio-fuels company in Oregon and part-time in the wine industry. Stewart returned to Purdue and earned her Ph.D. in food science in 2013. Her graduate research was involved yeast assimible-nitrogen and amino acid profiles in wine grapes of the eastern United States.
Kelly came to Virginia Tech from Surry County Community College in Dobson, N.C., where she developed the enology curriculum and managed all aspects of the college’s 1,000-case bonded winery. A Ph.D. student of Zoecklein’s in the Food Science Department, Kelly’s research is focused on the aroma composition of Petit Manseng. She holds a bachelor’s degree in medical technology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in biology from the University of Texas in San Antonio.
Zoecklein was hired by Virginia Tech in 1985 to handle all aspects of enology within the Department of Food Science, including research, teaching and enology extension support for the industry. At the time, Virginia had 31 wineries, and most wine consumers both outside and inside Virginia had no idea that the state produced grapes and wine. Today that has changed. More than 220 wineries are located across the state, and their wines have won international acclaim and recognition.
As head of the Enology-Grape Chemistry Group at Virginia Tech, Zoecklein made significant contributions through research, teaching and extension work that helped push the state’s industry forward. He presented more than 400 educational programs that provided technical expertise to support growth in the Virginia wine industry, wrote or co-wrote four books about wine chemistry and analysis and also provided technical assistance to governments and wine industries in Argentina, China, Italy, Moldova and Romania.
In addition to the faculty changes in the Food Science Department, Virginia Tech is in the process of constructing a new “Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building,” which will house both the Food Science Department and Environmental Systems Engineering. When it opens in 2014, the new 88,200-square-foot facility will include additional laboratories, a pilot plant, taste panel and kitchen facilities, conference rooms, graduate student research spaces and faculty and staff offices. It is the first of four buildings to be built by the university that will be dedicated to the demands of human and agricultural biosciences research and discovery.