Graduating Student Spotlight: Emma Nakimera

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Graduating Student Spotlight: Emma Nakimera

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 individuals with diverse experience from around the world who are graduating this year. Emma Nakimera, a native of Uganda, will recieve her master’s degree in food science and technology during December's ceremonies. We appreciate the community 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 individuals. 


How did your first get interested in your field? What was your previous education?

My interest in the field of food science starts from way back when I pursued a bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Technology, at Makerere University, Uganda, one of the top five universities in Africa. Aside classwork, I acquired practical life skills in the field of food science, some of which I applied in an ice cream start-up business. I also had an opportunity to do an internship at Nile Breweries Ltd – one of the largest breweries, by volume, in Africa. After my undergrad, I worked as a Research and Development Assistant with Kerry Group-Uganda, a flavor-making company. Aside formulation of new recipes, I engaged in a lot of food safety and quality assurance tasks, such as performing quality checks on both raw materials and finished products, preparing, and implementing of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan for the various company products. With these roles, my desire in the field of food science continued to grow and I decided to further my career in this field, specializing in Food Safety and Quality Assurance. I applied for a master’s degree in Food Science and Technology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

What have been some challenges you’ve faced here? Opportunities? Things that surprised you? 

The major challenges I faced were during the first few weeks upon arriving in Lincoln. I got myself into an apartment that seemed to be close to the Innovation campus -5 min drive, only to realize that it was also a 40-min walk to campus and the only bus in this part of Lincoln came every after an hour. This came as a surprise. The long distance coupled with the hot summer temperatures, made it very hard for me adjust quickly to the new environment like the rest of the students. However, the situation improved as I settled in more and made friends who also helped me get an apartment that was better situated to suit all the necessities.

Studying at UNL has opened a lot of opportunities throughout the two years; I have made many friends both in my own department and other departments through different social and school gatherings. I have developed my networking skills through attending conferences and career fairs which have enhanced my professional life skills. In addition, my scientific writing skills have improved tremendously throughout the two years at UNL, and this is mostly because of the diverse seminars organized by my department, the graduate office, or the ISSO. Aside classwork, I have had opportunities to interact with many food science professionals both at UNL and in the food industry which has continued to enlighten my career path.

Who is your advisor? Anything you’d like to share about them? Or say to them? 

My primary advisor is Dr. Byron D. Chaves, an Assistant Professor in the Food Science and Technology department, with expertise in and beyond food safety, auditing, and various regulatory standards. Dr. Chaves is a very good mentor; through his mentorship, I have continued to grow professionally in my career, and widened my knowledge in the field of food safety through the projects I have done under his guidance. He has opened many opportunities for me by encouraging and funding travel to conferences to meet various professionals both in academia and the food industry. I am proud to be part of the Chaves Lab.

Dr. Curtis Weller, the head of department, has also been very impactful in my grad school, as my initial advisor, who also gave me the opportunity to study at UNL, and more especially allowed my studies to start online for my first semester when I was unable to get a VISA to travel on time. Without him, my career at UNL would have remained just a dream!

How has your time at Nebraska impacted you in what you will go on to do?

I have met and interacted with individuals from various cultures, and this has made me understand and think differently about various aspects both professionally and socially. My knowledge of food safety has widened, and my writing skills and networking skills have improved tremendously, partly the reason I have chosen a career in the food industry. I am going to apply the knowledge and skills acquired to solve real life challenges in the food industry, as a way to give back to the community.


Are you or someone you know graduating this year (or the future) and have an international element to your work, studies or experiences you'd like to see highlighted? Contact Shabani at