“There’s so much more that goes into brewing beer than just the ingredients,” says Tony Bugher, president of the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company. The people involved, and the groups they represent, he explains, are absolutely critical to the whole process.
This is why, in 2021, the brewery established the Jake Leinenkugel Diversity in Brewing Award, to create a pathway for diverse communities to enter the industry. The award provides an undergraduate research fellowship for a UW student each year.
“We chose UW–Madison because the university is synonymous with Wisconsin, just like Leinenkugel’s,” Bugher says.
Leinenkugel’s was founded in 1867 in Chippewa Falls, which is still home to the company’s main brewery. Their German-inspired beer has been enjoyed for more than 150 years, but the company is aiming to create new opportunities in the field of craft brewing.
Endowed by a $50,000 donation from Molson Coors, the parent company of Leinenkugel’s, the award is open to students from the Latino, Black/African American, American Indian, Asian, Pacific Islander, and LGBTQ+ communities. By offering a unique research fellowship, Lienenkugel’s is hoping to attract underrepresented students to the industry, Bugher says.
Babayosimi (Simi) Fadiran BSx’24, a microbiology major, is the first recipient of the award. “I thought [the award] would give me a really good opportunity to figure out what it takes to do research, understand how long it takes, the resources needed, and everything else,” he says.
For his fellowship, Fadiran worked in the lab of assistant professor of food science Victor Ujor during the summer of 2022. This gave Fadiran exposure to fermentation science, the basis for brewing, through research on transforming fermentation waste into usable products. Specifically, the lab explores how to convert whey, a cheese byproduct, into succinate acid by genetically modifying the bacteria involved in fermentation. This acid can be used as a flavoring agent or in bioplastics and food processing. Fadiran’s role included coupling genes, an essential part of engineering microorganisms.
“The work is still going on, but [Simi] helped provide a building block,” Ujor says.
The Department of Food Science houses the Leinenkugel’s award, and Ujor’s lab hosts the fellowship. This summer, the next Leinenkugel’s fellow will focus on brewing beers with different types of grains.
Outside of the lab and classroom, Fadiran pursues a host of activities. He’s part of the UW club ultimate frisbee team, plays cello in the All-University String Orchestra, and volunteers at the Madison Boys and Girls Club. Although brewing is not on his radar at this time, he says the chance to work in Ujor’s lab solidified that he wants to continue his path in science.
“This experience opened my eyes in terms of what it takes to do research,” Fadiran says. He came away with lab proficiencies and techniques that he will carry into his graduate work and career. Fadiran is planning to study either pathology or infectious disease through a joint MD/Ph.D. program, and during his upcoming junior year, he will join a pathology lab in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.
“Simi picked up the skills he needed to work with very quickly,” Ujor says. “This award is going to make a real contribution long term to the industry, to the lives of the students, and to the lab.”
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This article was posted in Basic Science, Beyond classroom experiences, Bioenergy and Bioproducts, Economic and Community Development, Food Systems, Healthy Ecosystems, High Yield, Summer 2023 and tagged Babayosimi Fadiran, Fermentation, Food science, genetic engineering, Jake Leinenkugel Diversity in Brewing Award, Microbiology, research fellowship, Tory Bugher, Victor Ujor.