James Rogers

photo of James Rogers

  • MS in Microbiology (1983)
  • PhD in Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan
  • Director of Food Safety Research and Testing at Consumer Reports
  • strives to recruit more people of color into STEM careers
  • worked as a graduate student in the microbiology lab of the late Dr. Jnanendra Bhattacharjee

My Profession

"I serve as the Director of Food Safety Research and Testing at Consumer Reports, where I'm responsible for leading the food safety and sustainability operations of the organization, including food testing, data analysis, and risk and safety assessments.

"I lead a very diverse team of six, including two microbiologists, a biochemist, and three nutritionists. We are responsible for all the testing results and information that is included in the various articles in Consumer Reports magazine, our website, and our social media output. Additionally, we provide subject matter expertise on food safety, nutrition, food labels, and other areas of food. My team contributes to the overall direction of the organization in the food area by being directly involved at all levels in the strategic planning and execution of food testing and evaluation programs.

"I am entering my golden years professionally, so one of my main goals is to give back by helping more young people (especially those from diverse backgrounds) consider STEM careers and to provide any mentorship, advice, and guidance that I can. I have been involved in recruiting more people of color into the sciences ever since I worked with Dr. Ray Fleming, the assistant dean of Miami's Graduate School at the time, to support his efforts in diversifying the graduate student body.

"A second goal is to make sure the younger employees of my organization get positioned to advance and be recognized for their contributions to the mission. And personally, I want continual improvement as a leader and manager for my team and my organization."

My Miami Experiences

"First and foremost, it was the love and support of my family, friends, and church that helped me during my time at Miami. I was the first member of my immediate family to complete an undergraduate degree and the first in my extended family to receive my doctorate. Their support was essential in getting me through the various challenges, both academic and professionally, that I faced on my professional journey.

"Second, I credit my mentors, particularly the late Dr. Jnanendra Bhattacharjee, who we called Dr. B. He was my advisor during my time at Miami and an excellent resource. I enjoyed my time under his direction. Mentors and advisors have been essential in helping me make decisions regarding my professional choices. My resume reflects what I think is a pretty non-traditional pathway for a microbiologist, but the journey has been, while challenging at times, ultimately very fulfilling.

"One of my Miami highlights was attending an American Society for Microbiology meeting with Dr. B. He seemed to know everybody and was very cognizant to introduce his students to all of the important attendees at the meeting. It amazed me how he knew so many people and how he promoted his students to meet them also.

"Another favorite memory was how I was adopted by one of the local families, the Smiths, during my time at Miami. I met them when I was attending the local AME church. I especially remember when I was so nervous right before my exams, and Ms. Sally Smith brought me over her house for a milkshake. It was great to know that there were people that cared about me and my successes.

"Working with Dr. B. taught me how to be a researcher and prepared me for my doctoral studies. I also was provided the chance to help to teach lab classes for the very first time, and I realized that I loved teaching. I believe that my experience at Miami solidified the direction that I would take for the rest of my academic career."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"I had always been interested in science, ever since for Christmas I was given a chemistry kit, then a small microscope. I used these gifts to teach myself how to use a microscope, do chemical experiments, and so on. As I got older, I considered medicine as a profession but was really more interested in the causes of illness, so I became a microbiology major with an emphasis on infectious diseases.

"A liberal arts education will give majors general knowledge in many areas, so it can prepare Miami students to work in a variety of jobs and careers — just like me. Being a hiring official, it is really important that new employees, especially 'fresh' graduates, be adaptable and able to pivot in a changing workplace. The ability to communicate professionally, both written and verbally, is essential. A successful liberal arts graduate will combine these skills and abilities and leverage them to their professional success.

"With the growing areas of the microbiome, whole genome sequencing and gene expression, and other new areas of inquiry, the life sciences are entering yet another 'golden age' of discovery. It is actually quite exciting to be in the sciences now, but I think a particular bridge needs to be built. For me, it is important to constantly ask how the science, the research, the data, can make substantial changes and improvements to people's lives. Miami graduates should always look at practical applications of what they have learned because I believe those make the biggest contributions to our society. Additionally, work continues to be more collaborative."

Advice to Students

"If you look at my resume, you will see that with a degree in microbiology I was an academic, a contractor, a federal employee, and I am now working for a non-profit organization. All of these continue to offer options to graduates. I strongly urge microbiology majors to look and explore all opportunities and to think outside the box. It may take some digging, but microbiology majors may be a bit surprised as to how their degree has prepared them for positions in many different areas.

"Miami graduates should always strive to improve their abilities in how to work together, share ideas, share credit, and listen and analyze. Just be positive, push forward, bring another along with you for the ride, and enjoy!"

[September 2019]