College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

International Spotlight on Juming Tang

Juming Tang
WSU Regents Professor Juming Tang serving up the results of new food safety technology.

WSU Regents Professor Juming Tang is well-versed in moving discoveries developed in the lab to the marketplace. Recently, the global research journal International Innovation featured the technologies he developed through years of basic research that could revolutionize pre-packaged food. The feature also included a Q&A that gives insight into the process of getting new technologies to the public.

Check out the interview below, and learn the history of research and development that led to the technology here: A microwaveable future: improving sterilisation and pasteurisation.

Feeling the heat

(reprinted from International Innovation with permission)

For over two decades, Professor Juming Tang has been conducting research using microwave and radio frequency energy for food safety applications. Here, he discusses the transformative technology that he has created, and the difficulties in maintaining a steady funding stream

How did you become interested in researching microwave heating?

Microwave heating is very unique compared with other heating methods. My interest started when I was teaching an undergraduate introductory food technology course in Canada in 1993. I started the research programme on microwave heating after joining Washington State University (WSU) in 1995 as a faculty member.

Specifically, what makes food safety an interesting and dynamic area to work in?

Research into food safety affects the industry as a whole, as well as having an impact on the lives of the general public. Such research will always be necessary, and this allows me to consistently secure funding from different agencies in order to sustain and expand my research programme.

It typically takes about 15 to 20 years to bring novel transformative technologies from concept to commercialisation, and sustainable funding is required to bridge knowledge gaps and overcome technical and regulatory hurdles.

Can you outline the core aims of your research?

First of all, we aim to develop engineering design concepts that apply the unique advantages of volumetric microwave heating to inactivate bacterial and viral pathogens in pre-packaged foods. The designs can be scaled up for industrial applications. Following this, we aim to build pilot-scale systems so that we can prove the concepts and demonstrate to industry the advantages of these new technologies compared with conventional technologies, and the feasibility for commercial implementation.

Ultimately, of course, we want to develop scientific bases and build effective tools for system design, production process development, regulatory acceptance and industrial application.

We also want to support technology transfer by licensing patents for commercialisation, providing educational programmes for the food industry, and educating new generations of scientists and engineers.

What are the unique challenges that your team has overcome in developing the technologies for commercialisation?

We had to address three main technical issues: 1) designing efficient microwave systems to provide stable and relative uniform heating patterns in foods; 2) visualising heating patterns and locating cold spots in foods and measuring cold spot temperatures in moving packages; 3) validating microbial safety of the processed foods for regulatory filing. We developed and patented a single-mode 915 MHz cavity design based on 3D computer simulation and mock-up testing. We developed an effective chemical marker method to determine and validate heating patterns, and developed a protocol for food safety validation using microbial surrogates for the targeted food pathogens.

How has your research contributed to the advancement of microwave-assisted thermal sterilisation (MATS) and pasteurisation (MAPS) systems?

Mine is the only laboratory in the world responsible for the development of MATS and MAPS from concepts to pilot-scale systems. We patented system design and temperature measurement methods, and WSU has licensed these to 915 Labs for commercialisation.

What value will your microwave technologies and processing methods bring to consumers?

We expect these technologies will provide consumers with a better standard of living through the delivery of a wide range of ready-to-eat chilled or shelf-stable meals that are safe, convenient, nutritious and available at affordable prices.

By incorporating shelf-life and nutritional information through smart phones in retail and at home, consumers will enjoy a better quality of life and also reduce their food waste.

Have you faced any obstacles while conducting your research? How have you addressed these issues?

As I mentioned, securing sustainable funding to support focused research programmes in food technology is very important – and it has been a challenge.

We have managed to maintain this research programme by obtaining competitive grants and conducting contract work with food companies. Since 2011, the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has increased funding opportunities to support breakthrough technology developments for food safety. We were able to secure two large grants from NIFA.

Our research requires high-quality space for installation and operation of pilot-scale systems, as well as infrastructures for hygiene food preparation, packaging processing, storage and tasting, and hands-on training of industrial personnel for technology transfer. Thankfully, the University worked hard to incrementally improve food processing pilot plants and support facilities in order to accommodate our expanded needs.

Where do you see your work heading in the future?

As the food industry starts to embrace and adopt the technologies we have been working on, we will need to research scientific and technological issues emerging from industrial production practices and consumer feedback.

An area of great interest that we have not been able to address is how we could take full advantage of the new technologies (short heating time and high sensory quality of the products) to directly bring health benefits to consumers. We are extremely interested in collaborating with leading laboratories in human nutritional sciences and related organisations. We hope to systematically study the influence of nutritional retention and reduced salt requirements in the prepared meals using MATS and MAPS, in order to address diabetic and obesity problems in school programmes.

CAHNRS is more than agriculture. With 24 majors, 19 minors, and 27 graduate level programs, we are one of the largest, most diverse colleges at WSU. CAHNRS Cougs are making a difference in the wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities, improving ecological and economic systems, and advancing agricultural sciences.

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Illustration of a woman holding wine near a music band. Text over the image reads: The Auction of Washington Wines Wine and Music Festival, WSU Tri-Cities Campus, June 10, Saturday 6 pm. Learn More. Support Wine.



With 24 majors, 19 minors, and 27 graduate level programs, CAHNRS is one of the largest, most diverse colleges at WSU.


CAHNRS students are awarded more than $600,000 in scholarships annually.


CAHNRS leads in discovery through its high-quality research programs. In 2014, CAHNRS received research funding exceeding $81.5M. This accounts for nearly 40% of all research funding received by WSU.  


CAHNRS has 39 student clubs and organizations to enhance student experiences and opportunities.

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Inspiring Teamwork - Arron Carter pic

Inspiring Teamwork – Arron Carter

It started with a car, a ’69 Corvette Stingray to be exact.

When Arron Carter, the director of the Washington State University Winter Wheat Breeding Program, was in high school his agricultural teacher had a ’69 Corvette Stingray. Every year this teacher would let his favorite senior take the car to senior prom. Carter had never taken an agriculture class before, but he knew he wanted to drive that car.

“Well, if I’m going to be the favorite senior,” Carter said to himself, “I’d better start taking some ag classes.”…

Read More: Inspiring Teamwork – Arron Carter


CAHNRS Office of Research

Agricultural Research Center

Mission Statement

The goal of the Washington State University CAHNRS Office of Research is to promote research beneficial to the citizens of Washington. The Office of Research recognizes its unique land-grant research mission to the people of Washington and their increasing global connections. The CAHNRS Office of Research provides leadership in discovering and applying knowledge through high-quality research that contributes to a safe and abundant food, fiber, and energy supply while enhancing the sustainability of agricultural and natural resource systems.

Research Update

Washington State University’s screening continues to find no evidence of glyphosate herbicide resistance in Pacific Northwest wheat varieties

In each of the last three years (2014, 2015 and 2016), the field screening process has involved over 80 varieties, 2,000 advanced breeding lines and more than 35,000 individual plots from WSU cereal breeding and variety evaluation programs. Collectively, varieties included in these trials represent over 95 percent of the wheat acreage planted in Washington.

Featured Research

Want fries with that? Stealth potato virus threatens industry

Newly emerged viruses threaten the U.S. potato industry, including potatoes grown in Washington. Several newly evolved strains of the disease known as potato virus Y, or PVY, can render potatoes unmarketable and reduce crop yield. What’s worse is the new viruses are particularly difficult to detect with the naked eye.

Horned larks undeterred by efforts to protect canola seedlings

Horned larks are turning up in droves near Lind, Wash. and decimating newly planted winter and spring canola fields despite multiple efforts to deter them.

In search of the perfect steak

Imagine taking your first bite of a $40 rib-eye steak—only to chew on beef that’s as tough as shoe leather. Talk about disappointment! “A tough steak is not a pleasant experience,” says Frank Hendrix, a WSU Extension Educator and animal scientist.

Workshops to discuss changing water forecast for Columbia Basin

How changing water availability in the Columbia River Basin could affect people, farms and fish is the focus of a series of free public workshops in June. Scheduled for June 21, 22 and 23 in Richland, Wenatchee and Spokane, the workshops give a first look at the 2016 Columbia River Basin Long-Term Water Supply and Demand Forecast.

After landslide, communities rewarded for resilience

Two years after the deadly landslide that devastated the Oso, Wash., area, the towns of Darrington and Arlington were announced April 27 as finalists in the America’s Best Communities (ABC) competition.

$11M funds food safety tech transfer to markets

WSU aims to meet growing demand for safe, high quality, additive-free packaged foods thanks to two recent investments in innovative food processing technology based on microwave energy.

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Welcome to alumni, friends, and supporters of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS). You are a core part of our CAHNRS Coug family and have made major impacts in our college, communities, and throughout the world. We recognize only a handful of them here.

More than 9,000 alumni and friends contributed to our Campaign for WSU, the most ambitious fundraising effort in university history. The campaign concluded in 2015 with $215 million and endless amounts of impact. Here is a glimpse of what transpired in the Campaign.

Although the campaign concluded, momentum continues to make a difference in our land-grant mission and education. On-going investment in time and resources from our alumni and friends helps to advance our best programs, attract the most talented faculty, and support our brightest students.

There are so many ways to stay involved with CAHNRS. Share your news in the college’s magazine ReConnect. Get involved with student success or support our college as whole by making a gift to the CAHNRS Excellence Fund.


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