Wei Zhang

  • Professor, Food Science and Nutrition
  • Assoc. Director

Professor Wei Zhang is a Full Professor of Food Science the Associate Director of Center for Process Innovation at the Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH), a prestigious food science research consortium comprised of Illinois Tech, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the food industry, which provides stakeholders with the opportunity to develop and exchange knowledge, experience, and expertise in the areas of food safety, food defense, food processing, and nutrition.  

Zhang received his doctoral degree in Food Science from Penn State University, followed by postdoctoral trainings at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Professor Zhang is an internationally recognized, highly-cited scholar in the cross-disciplinary research field of microbial food safety and bacterial genomics, and a Food Safety Specialist listed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). He is the principal investigator and project director of more than $5 million U.S. dollars of competitive USDA research grants and FDA contracts. Zhang serves on various national and international expert review panels for food safety programs including the USDA, NSF, NASA, and EU Transnational Funding and Research Initiative. Zhang is a professional member of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the International Association of Food Protection (IAFP), and the American Honor Society for Food Science. He serves on the Editorial Boards of many top peer-reviewed scientific journals, including Applied and Environmental Microbiology (ASM), Food Microbiology (Elsevier), BMC Genomics (Springer), and Frontiers in Microbiology. 

Zhang teaches undergraduate and graduate-level courses in Food Science, including exploring food science and technology, food microbiology and laboratory, microbiology genetics laboratory, food biotechnology, functional genomics. Zhang leads an active research team of scientists and researchers in the mechanistic studies of physiology and pathogenesis of foodborne pathogens including Listeria, Salmonella and pathogenic E. coli in the food supply chain, using cutting-edge bioinformatics and high-throughput genomic and transcriptomic approaches.


Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University
M.S., Huazhong Agricultural University
B.S., Huazhong Agricultural University

Research Interests

Dr. Zhang’s research interests include molecular detection, genotyping, stress response, virulence and pathogenesis of foodborne bacteria. The long-term goal of his research is to better understand the genetic and physiological basis by which bacterial pathogens colonize various environmental niches, survive and grow in foods, transmit to human and cause infectious disease, using cutting-edge bioinformatics and high-throughput genomic approaches.

Professional Affiliations & Memberships

Phi Tau Sigma, The American Honor Society for Food Science

Scientific Research Society (Sigma Xi)

International Association of Food Protection (IAFP)

American Society for Microbiology (ASM)

Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)


Penn State CAS Outstanding Recent Alumni Award

CDC Charles C. Shepard Science Award Nomination

ASM/CDC Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

Penn State University Graduate Fellowship

National and International Committee Panels

Editorial Board, Applied and Environmental Microbiology (USA)

Editorial Board, Food Microbiology (UK)

Ad hoc reviewer: Nature Genetics, Genome Research, Trends in Microbiology, Emerging

Infectious Disease, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Journal of Bacteriolgy, Genetics and Evolution, Food Microbiology (UK), Microbiology (UK), BMC Microbiology, Foodborne Pathogens & Disease, Journal of

Food Protection, PLoS One, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, etc


Mafiz AI, Perera LN, He Y, Zhang W, Xiao S, Hao W, Zhou K, Zhang Y*. 2018. A Case Study on Soil Antibiotic Resistome in an Urban Community Garden. Intl J Antimicrobial Agents. pii: S0924-8579(18)30147-X. doi: 10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2018.05.016.

Kahraman O, Lee H, Zhang W, Feng H*. 2016. Manothermosonication treatment of apple-carrot juice blend for inactivation of Escherichia coli O157:H7. Ultrason Sonochem. pii: S1350-4177(16)30411-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ultsonch.2016.11.024.

Salazar JK, Wang Y, Yu S, Wang H, Zhang W*. 2015. Review: Polymerase chain reaction-based serotyping of pathogenic bacteria in food. J Microbiol Methods 110:18-26. doi: 10.1016/j.mimet.2015.01.009

Deng X*, Shariat N, Driebe EM, Tolar B, Trees E, Zhang W, Dudley EG, Fields PI, Engelthaler DM. 2015. Comparative analysis of subtyping methods against a whole-genome-sequencing standard for Salmonella enterica serotype Enteritidis. J Clin Microbiol, 53(1): 212-8.

Wang S, Orsi RH, Tang S, Zhang W, Wiedmann M, Boor KJ*. 2014. The phosphotransferase system-dependent extracellular growth of Listeria monocytogenes is regulated by alternative sigma factors σL and σH. Appl Environ Microbiol 80(24):7673-82.

Salazar JK, Wu Z, Yang W, Freitag NE, Tortorello ML, Wang H, Zhang W*. 2013. Roles of a novel Crp/Fnr family transcription factor Lmo0753 in soil survival, biofilm production, and surface attachment to fresh produce ofListeria monocytogenesPLoS One, 8(9): e75736.

Salazar JK, Wu Z, McMullen D, Luo Q, Freitag NE, Tortorello ML, Hu S, Zhang W* 2013. A prfA-like transcription factor gene lmo0753 contributes to L-rhamnose utilization in Listeria monocytogenes associated with human foodborne infections. Appl Environ Microbiol, 79:5584-5592.

He Y, Li Y, Salazar JK, Yang J, Tortorello ML, Zhang W*. 2013. Increased water activity reduces thermal resistance of Salmonella enterica in peanut butter. Appl Environ Microbiol, 79:4763-4767.

Deng X, Salazar JK, Frezet S, MacCannell D, Ribot EM, Fields PI, Fricke WF, Zhang W*. 2013. Genome sequence of Salmonella enterica serotype Tennessee strain CDC07-0191 implicated in the 2006-2007 multi-state foodborne outbreak linked to peanut butter in the United States. Genome Announc, 1(3): e00260-13.

Salazar JK, Deng K, Tortorello ML, Brandl MT, Wang H, Zhang W*. 2013. Genes ycfRsirA and yigG contribute to the surface attachment of Salmonella enterica Typhimurium and Saintpaul to fresh produce. PLoS One, 8(2): e57272

Deng X, Li Z, Zhang W*. 2012. Transcriptome sequencing of Salmonella enterica Enteritidis under desiccation and starvation stress in peanut oil. Food Microbiol, 30, 311-315.

Deng K, Wang S, Rui X, Zhang W, Tortorello ML*. 2011. Functional analysis of ycfR and ycfQ in Escherichia coliO157:H7 associated with fresh produce outbreaks. Appl Environ Microbiol, 77, 3952-3959.

Wen J, Deng X, Li Z, Dudley EG, Anantheswaran RC, Knabel SJ, Zhang W*. 2011. Transcriptomic response ofListeria monocytogenes during transition to the long term survival phase. Appl Environ Microbiol, 77, 5966-5972.

He Y, Yang J, Guo D, Tortorello ML, Zhang W*. 2011. Survival and thermal resistance of Salmonella enterica andEscherichia coli O157:H7 in peanut butters. Appl Environ Microbiol, 77, 8434-8438.

Deng X, Phillippy AM, Li Z, Salzberg SL, Zhang W*. 2010. Probing the pan genome of Listeria monocytogenes: new insights into intraspecific niche expansion and genomic diversification. BMC Genomics, 11, 500.

Wang S, Phillippy AM, Deng K, Rui X, Tortorello ML, Zhang W*. 2010. Transcriptomic response of Salmonella enterica Typhimurium and Enteritidis to chlorine-based oxidation. Appl Environ Microbiol, 76, 5013-5024.

Phillippy AM, Deng X, Zhang W, Salzberg SL* 2009. Efficient oligonucleotide probe selection for pan genomic tiling arrays. BMC Bioinformatics, 10, 293.

Wang S, Deng K, Zaremba S, Deng X, Lin C, Wang Q, Tortorello ML, Zhang W* 2009. Transcriptomic response ofEscherichia coli O157:H7 to oxidative stress. Appl Environ Microbiol, 75, 6110-6123.

Manning SD, Motiwala AS, Springman AC, Qi W, Lacher DW, Ouellette LM, Mladonicky JM, Somsel P, Rudrik JT, Dietrich SE, Zhang W, Swaminathan B, Alland D, Whittam TS* 2008. Variation in virulence among clades ofEscherichia coli O157:H7 associated with disease outbreaks. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 105, 4868-4873.

Chen Y, Zhang W, Knabel SJ*. 2007. Multi-virulence-locus sequence typing identifies single nucleotide polymorphisms which differentiate epidemic clones and outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenesJ Clin Microbiol, 45: 835-846.

Zhang W*, Qi W, Albert TJ, Motiwala AS, Alland D, Hyytia-Trees EK, Ribot EM, Fields PI, Whittam TS, Swaminathan B. 2006. Probing genomic diversity and evolution of Escherichia coli O157 by single-nucleotide polymorphisms. Genome Res,16:757-767.

Chen Y, Zhang W, Knabel SJ*. 2005. Multi-virulence-locus sequence typing clarifies epidemiology of recent U.S. listeriosis outbreaks. J Clin Microbiol, 43: 5291-5294.

 Zhang W*, Jayarao BM, Knabel SJ. 2004. Multi-virulence-locus sequence typing of Listeria monocytogenesAppl Environ Microbiol, 70: 913-920.


Deng X, Allen K, Zhang W* 2012. Pathogen identification using high-density microarrays. In: Heldman DR, Hoover D, Wheeler MB, Bamania AB (eds.), Encyclopedia of Biotechnology in Agriculture and Food. Taylor & Francis Group, New York, USA. ISBN 0849350271.

Zhang W*, Wade J, Dudley EG. 2011. Chapter 10. Genomic and transcriptomic analysis of foodborne bacterial pathogens. In: Wiedmann M, Zhang W (eds.), Genomics of Foodborne Bacterial Pathogens. In: Food Microbiology and Food Safety book series. Springer, New York, USA. ISBN 978-4419-7685-7, Hardcover.

Swaminathan B*, Cabanes D, Zhang W, Cossart P. 2007. Chapter 21: Listeria monocytogenes. p. 457-491. In: Doyle MP, Beuchat LR, Montville TJ, (eds.), Food Microbiology: Fundamentals and Frontiers, 3rd ed. ASM Press, Washington DC, USA


Food Safety, Food Microbiology, Microbial Genomics, Bacterial Stress Response, Foodborne Pathogens, Bacterial Pathogenesis.

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