Food scientist Beelman retires after 40 years

Posted: November 1, 2010

Food science researcher Robert Beelman recently retired from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences after 40 years of service.
Robert Beelman

Robert Beelman

The major thrust of his research has focused on cultural, postharvest and minimal-processing practices to improve the quality and safety of fruit, vegetable and mushroom products; development of methods to control malolactic fermentation in winemaking; and evaluation of bioactive components from mushrooms, their impact on human health and their use in the development of functional foods.

"Professor Beelman is not only a top-quality researcher with international recognition, but also a scientist with rare vision, wisdom, compassion and work ethic," said John Floros, head of the Department of Food Science. "He exemplifies all the qualities found in true scholars and dedicated academics."

Beelman received his bachelor's degree in biology from Capitol University and his master's and doctoral degrees in food technology from Ohio State. He joined the Food Science Department as an assistant professor in 1970 and achieved the rank of full professor in 1982.

Early in his career, Beelman received international recognition for his research related to the induction of malolactic fermentation in winemaking, which is of critical importance to quality and stability of wines, especially those produced in cool climates.

"He isolated and characterized a new strain of malolactic bacteria that he named PSU-1. This strain became the subject of intense academic study and use around the world," Floros said. "His research developed the basis for the first commercial production of freeze-dried malolactic cultures that are now commonly employed as starter cultures to induce malolactic fermentation."

Beelman also filed a petition with and received approval from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to permit the use of such cultures in wine. As an indication of its importance, PSU-1 was selected to be the first wine bacterium to have its genome sequenced.

Beelman has authored more than 200 publications (80 in refereed journals) and numerous book chapters and holds three patents.

His research program has been integrated closely with the education of many graduate students. He has served as major advisor to more than 50 master's and doctoral degree students who have gone on to productive research careers in industry and academia.

Beelman currently serves as professor emeritus, co-advising graduate students. He also is working to develop a Center for Plant and Mushroom Foods for Health in the Department of Food Science.

He received numerous awards, including the Gamma Sigma Delta Award of Merit for Teaching in 2002 and the Alex and Jesse C. Black Award for Excellence in Research in 2005.