Caring Through Service

Mark McLellan’s national service in food science has helped prepare him to lead UNT’s research enterprise.

Caring Through Service

Mark McLellan’s national service in food science has helped prepare him to lead UNT’s research enterprise.

UNT Diving Eagle
April 20, 2020

Mark McLellan, vice president of research and innovation for UNT, has an impressive record of service in university research administration along with a distinguished research career. What additionally sets him apart is his remarkable record contributing to national and international boards that oversee and acknowledge research science.

For much of the past decade, McLellan participated on four very prestigious boards. He served 10 years on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Science Advisory Board, six years on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s policy committee — the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education and Economics (NAREEE) Advisory Board, and two years on the USDA Science Advisory Council. At one point he chaired both councils simultaneously. He also spent 10 years as an advisor for the World Food Prize. McLellan is one of the few individuals who have served on the science boards for both the FDA and USDA and one of the few non-medical doctors to chair the FDA Science Advisory Board.

McLellan, who joined UNT last fall, has a connection to agriculture that began with his career as a food science researcher, specializing in food processing engineering and process technology of fruits and vegetables, computer systems applications and information technology in the food sciences and sensory evaluation of foods. He has continued his interest in agriculture as he has moved into leading university research enterprises.

“Agriculture and food has been in my roots for a long time. Instead of working more in the fundamentals of my own discipline, now I’m more aggressively talking about how we feed the world. That’s my personal passion,” McLellan says. “And why my connection with the USDA, FDA and finishing up my work with the World Food Prize has been so important to me.”

McLellan is especially passionate about his work with the World Food Prize, which he equates to the Nobel Prize for agricultural research. The international organization recognizes the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

By bringing attention to food insecurity and possible solutions for the future, the World Food Prize hopes to inspire others to tackle the enormous problem of feeding the world. In recent years, laureates have addressed issues such as enhanced vegetable production for small farms across the world, elevating maternal and child undernutrition at national and international levels and biofortification — breeding critical vitamins and micronutrients into staple crops —thereby dramatically reducing ‘hidden hunger’ for millions.

“The question we all face is simple: How do we feed nine-and-a-half billion people?” McLellan asks. “We’re going to face this soon, and we do not yet have the answer.”

McLellan and the board also tackled some heavy issues during his time with the FDA such as addressing the opioid crisis years before there was much public awareness.

“We were ahead of the issue of oxycodone dependency due to over-prescription,” McLellan says. “Before there was a whole lot of news around it, we recognized this as a problem and dove deep into pain management and came back with guidance for the medical community that made sense.”

McLellan is deeply passionate about his service to the greater community, which helps make him a great fit for UNT, where caring is part of the culture. While his terms of service to these organizations may have ended, he continues to work in the greater higher education community offering his expertise. He is active with the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU), where he has long been active on the Council on Research (CoR). He  chaired the APLU and Association of American Universities joint Laboratory Safety Implementation Group and is a recognized national leader on university-wide polices for safe research environments. McLellan also is a member of the APLU training for all new associated vice presidents for research, where he annually does in-depth training about the role of the VPR.

McLellan is using his experience serving in the leadership of these important national organizations to lead UNT’s growth as a Tier One research university.

“Our movement into R1 status was phenomenal,” McLellan says. “We’re focused on building research and doing so in a safe and effective manner. Our goal is to build out our sponsored research activities across all colleges. Every faculty member deserves resources to make their dreams of discovery come to life. My job is to help them find those resources from sponsored funding. Our continued R1 success heavily depends on it.”