Global Seminar Spotlight: Maria Velissariou

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Global Seminar Spotlight: Maria Velissariou

This is a continuation of our "IANR is Global" series, which highlights the many ways internationalization is woven through the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources: through research collaboration, government and private industry partnerships, extension work, student educational experiences and the IANR community from around the world.  

This edition is specifically focused on the many global voices we have or have invited to campus who will be sharing their expertise through seminars during spring semester 2020. Guest speaker Dr. Maria Velissariou will be presenting a talk entitled “Food Chains of the Future and the New Supply Demand Dynamics” on February 10 as part of the Department of Food Science and Technology seminar series. We appreciate the expertise we are fortunate to have from all over the world, as shown by their many and varied contributions to the work of the university and our continued mission to create a globally engaged institution. To this end, we want to help our campus community get to know each other (and the world) more, starting with these experts. 

Where is your hometown? Where did you receive your education?

My home town is Larissa in the region of Thessaly (central Greece). I attended the local public schools and then studied Chemical Engineering at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki, in the north of the country, is the second biggest city after Athens. 

Tell us a little about your path to where you are now.

I chose Chemical Engineering as an academic challenge and with a great deal of curiosity about professional avenues. After my undergraduate studies I moved to the U.K. where I did my Masters and PhD in Biochemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham in Birmingham, England. It was a significant milestone academically and personally leading to a career in industry for 25 years both in the U.K. and the U.S. For my graduate studies, I was originally inspired by my bioorganic chemistry professor during my undergraduate studies.

The food industry was a choice that I made early on and it has been a tremendously satisfying experience allowing me to work globally, across several product categories in R&D and gain critical experience in other functions. Throughout my career, I worked for three global corporations – Dow Corning, Kraft Foods and PepsiCo – and each one of them promoted and encouraged work across disciplines and countries. The cultural exposure and opportunity to meet people from around the world expands your horizons and allows you to forge friendships. Equipped with this experience, I now have the opportunity in my IFT role to engage with a much broader set of stakeholders in the food system that include academia, industry, government and other non-profits.  

What is something people don’t know (or that you wish they knew) about where you’re from?

Thessaly was renowned for breeding horses for the armies of the many Greek city-states, including Alexander the Great. 

Are you engaged in any international partnerships or collaborations in your current role? 

Indeed I am liaising with several organization such as the UK IFST and the Australian IFST. As an alumna from the University of Birmingham, I also represent the university in Chicago and the surrounding area.

Why is it important for institutions like the University of Nebraska to prioritize inviting/hearing from people with experience from different parts of the world?

It is important to make connections within the scientific community to address common challenges and also learn from each other culturally and educationally. Through these interactions we become not just smarter but wiser too. We advance knowledge and better facilitate its application.

What is one piece of advice you would share with students, especially those who are interested in an international career?

Pursue your dreams and interests. Choose the organization you are going to very carefully and be prepared to make adjustments and learn in a different way. You may not get the support that you receive in the US but you can turn this into your advantage as part of your experience and growth.

We encourage the campus community to attend Dr. Velissariou's seminar at 4:00 p.m. on February 10 in the Food Innovation Center, room 277, on Nebraska's Innovation Campus! 


Are you giving a seminar in spring 2020 (or the future) and have an international element to your work, studies or background you'd like to see highlighted? Contact Brianne Wolf at