Cheese Staff

The Cheese Industry and Applications team works with natural, processed, cold pack, and cream cheese completing basic research as well as product development and problem solving issues. This includes pilot contract work, on-site help, and consultations with any dairy related industry from the point of milk standardization through manufacture, conversion, retail/foodservice, and the end user. The team is also responsible for conducting or assisting in multiple cheese related extension or private contracted short courses, working closely with other CDR and University program areas, including the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker® Program, UW Food Science, UW Food Research Institute, and other UW departments.

John Jaeggi
Cheese Industry & Applications Coordinator
As the coordinator of the Cheese Industry and Applications Program at CDR, John is responsible for the coordination and execution of trials and application extensions. In addition John lectures and conducts lab sessions for numerous CDR and company contracted short courses. John has a B.S. in Business and Economics. He is a third generation licensed Wisconsin Cheesemaker with over 30 years of experience in the industry. He has also been a technical judge in many contests including the United States and World Championship Cheese Contest.
Phone: 608-262-2264 | email jaeggi@cdr.wisc.edu

Mark Johnson
Assistant Director, Senior Management Team, Distinguished Scientist
A wealth of knowledge, Mark has been with CDR for more than 30 years. Honored with the NCI Laureate Award and many other awards, Mark is a resource for both staff and industry. As CDR Assistant Director, Mark is a close advisor to the Director and often represents CDR when the Director is traveling. Mark has a Ph.D in Food Science. His research interests include developing, manufacturing and ripening protocols for unique cheeses, the study of cheese characteristics and cheese defects. He also enjoys “talking cheese” with cheesemakers and sharing experiences and insights into the cheese industry.
Phone: 608-262-0275 | email jumbo@cdr.wisc.edu

Dean Sommer
Senior Management Team, Cheese & Food Technologist
Dean serves as a technical resource to the industry regarding cheese, whey products and processing. He assists manufacturers as well as their customers by serving as a consultant and educator. Dean is often involved with trouble shooting, public and private company short courses and is able to consult on issues regarding processing and product defects. He has more than 18 years of experience in the industry, having worked at one of the largest cheese and whey product facilities in the U.S. He also has a B.S. in Biology and Chemistry as well as a Master’s degree in Food Science. He enjoys the constant challenges and continued learning that comes with working at CDR and is honored to serve the dairy industry, helping producers and manufacturers to provide the world with quality nutrition through dairy products.
Phone: 608-265-6469 | email DSommer@cdr.wisc.edu

Gina Mode
Assistant Coordinator Cheese Industry & Applications
Gina is involved with everything from cheese trials and troubleshooting to short courses and outreach efforts. She has a B.S. in Food Science and a MBA. Gina was raised on a fifth generation family dairy farm and has been making cheese as a licensed Wisconsin cheesemaker for over a decade. She has also served as a technical judge for the American Cheese Society, North American Jersey Cheese Awards, and World Dairy Expo Championship Dairy Product Contest. Gina particularly enjoys working with cheesemakers to develop new specialty cheeses.
Phone: 608-262-2253 | email gmode@cdr.wisc.edu

Andy Johnson
Outreach Specialist / Assistant Coordinator
As a licensed cheesemaker with over a decade of industry experience, Andy Johnson brings a great deal of knowledge and expertise to CDR clients looking to develop and refine their products. Though his focus is on specialty cheese with an emphasis on sheep and goat, Andy is involved in nearly every aspect of the CDR Cheese Applications program. From cheese trials and plant visits to short courses and presentations, Andy’s education in business as well as his previous experience as a cheesemaker in three states helps him to assist companies as they navigate all aspects of the industry. Andy is honored to aid U.S. cheesemakers and is passionate about his desire to help them to succeed and make an impact on the industry.
Phone: 608-262-1534 | email ajohnson@cdr.wisc.edu

David Montgomery
Outreach Specialist / Assistant Coordinator
With experience in research and development and a passion for the chemistry of cheese, David brings a wide range of skills to those looking to improve the functionality of their natural or processed cheese. David’s background in Food Science and his previous experience working with cheese sauces, cream cheese, processed cheese and various styles of natural cheese allow him to aid companies in pinpointing functionality issues. Additionally, David is able to provide industry education in regards to these areas while assisting the Cheese Applications group in everything from cheesemaking to plant visits. David remains passionate about experimenting with cheese and enjoys helping companies to create outstanding products.
Phone: 608-263-4078 | email dmontgomery@cdr.wisc.edu

Rani Govindasamy-Lucey
Senior Scientist
Rani is responsible for coordinating CDR research projects including company research and work with graduate students. She helps develop new projects, writes grants, oversees project proposal development for company work and published research papers on cheese related topics. She has a doctorate in Food Science and has been with CDR since 1999 and brings industry experience from around the world. Rani enjoys working with the many companies that come to CDR for answers and is happy to be a part of the discovery and research process.
Phone: 608-265-5447 | email rani@cdr.wisc.edu

Rodrigo Ibáñez Alfaro
Associate Scientist
A native of Chile, Rodrigo earned his Ph.D. in Food Science and Technology from University College Cork (Ireland), studying factors affecting the quality of low-fat cheeses. In 2014, he was a Research Scholar in the Department of Food Science at UW-Madison and collaborated on research projects with CDR under the supervision of CDR Director John Lucey. In recent years, Rodrigo has earned knowledge and experience conducting research in cheese science and technology. Now, as an associate scientist at CDR, Rodrigo is focusing on microbiological topics related to cheese and dairy products, along with writing research proposals and supporting research and outreach activities at CDR. Rodrigo hopes his contribution in research will improve the quality and competitiveness of U.S. dairy products.
Phone: 262-3268 | email ribanez@cdr.wisc.edu

Juan Romero
Researcher
As a researcher, Juan develops and adapts methods involved in dairy product processing. A member of several IDF standing committees, including the science and program coordinating committee, the ISO technical committee 34 SC 5, and many other standardization organizations, Juan often advises and consults on various dairy related research topics. Juan has a B.S. in Agronomy and a Master’s degree in Plant Science. With former experience in quality assurance and other food industry research at companies such as Agrigenetics Inc. (DBA Mycogen Seeds), Juan brings a wide range of expertise to CDR. With many responsibilities, Juan enjoys the opportunity to work on a variety of tasks. He also enjoys the challenges related to developing new and improved methods for the dairy industry.
Phone: 608-265-9242 | email romero@cdr.wisc.edu

Amy Bostley
Research Specialist
Amy helps to coordinate cheese making trials and assists with chemical analysis activities within CDR. With a B.S. in both Food Science and Agricultural Journalism, she is able to assist CDR staff with everything from reviewing data to communicating with industry clients. Within CDR's cheese group, she is responsible for the hiring of student hourly employees. Amy began her career at CDR as a student hourly employee over 20 years ago and she continues to grow in her many roles.
Phone: 608-265-2271 | email ald@cdr.wisc.edu

Kristen Houck
Research Specialist
Kristen handles much of the microbiology-related work at CDR. She is involved in the microbial testing, analysis and safety of dairy products at the Center. She has a degree in Biology and brings nearly 20 years of lab experience to CDR. Kristen enjoys her work as each day brings new experiences and learning opportunities as well as challenge of working with the many aspects of different dairy products.
Phone: 608-890-0264 | email houck@cdr.wisc.edu

Yanjie Lu
Researcher and Lucey Lab Manager
As a researcher, Yanjie provides technical support and conducts analysis for research and industry projects for CDR. She develops and adapts methods involved in dairy products and dairy processing. She provides technical assistance to graduate students. As a lab manager for Dr. Lucey’s research lab, she coordinates the use of the laboratory for research and teaching purposes, takes care of the equipment and maintains safety protocols. Yanjie has a doctorate in Food Science and enjoys working in CDR’s environment of continuous research, outreach and education.
Phone: 608-890-4932 | email yanjielu@cdr.wisc.edu

Joey Jaeggi
Research Cheesemaker
Joey is a third generation licensed cheesemaker with more than 30 years of experience having been a plant manager as well as owner of his own plant for 14 years. He is responsible for making research related cheese at CDR. Joey is an expert in soft cheeses, such as Muenster and Brick but also has experience making Swiss, Monterrey Jack, Cheddar and many others.
Phone: 608-262-4179 | email jjaeggi@cdr.wisc.edu

Jeremy Johnson
Research Cheesemaker
Growing up, Jeremy spent a great deal of time working at his Great-Grandfather’s farm in Westfield, Wisconsin. The experience sparked Jeremy’s passion for the dairy industry which has led him to pursue a career in cheesemaking. Previously employed as a curd processor and later as an ice cream maker, Jeremy is proud to contribute to CDR’s mission. Through his work as a CDR research cheesemaker Jeremy hopes to make a difference in the lives of farmers.
Phone: (608) 890-4366 | email jjohnson@cdr.wisc.edu

Emily Caruso
Research Specialist
Emily is a research specialist who brings years of industry testing experience to the CDR lab. With knowledge of quality assurance programs and waste water analysis, Emily is able to continuously improve data processing and reporting. She has a B.S. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and enjoys the intellectual and physical challenges that come with her work in the lab. She is also proud to continue her family's tradition of working in the dairy industry.
Phone: 608-262-5798 | email ecaruso@cdr.wisc.edu

Hong Jiang
Research Specialist
As a research specialist, Hong assists the Dairy Ingredient and Beverage group as well as the Cultured Products group with a wide variety of requests. Using knowledge she gained while working towards her B.S. in Food Science from Purdue and a M.S. in Food Science from UW-Madison, Hong is able to help with everything from basic research to product formulation. She is particularly passionate about protein and has spent several years investigating solubility of conjugates and the general scientific principles of dairy proteins. Hong is excited to work with the dairy industry to develop new products and she is driven by the thought of helping companies to create products that will bring consumers joy and satisfaction.
Phone: 608-890-4867 | email hjiang@cdr.wisc.edu

Jason Pronschinske
Associate Research Specialist
Jason hails from a small farm town in western Wisconsin where the dairy industry thrives. As an undergraduate, he worked in CDR’s analytical department where he found the CDR laboratory to be the perfect place to blend his love of science with his love of dairy. With a degree in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he is happy to do testing on a wide variety of dairy products. Jason hopes that his work at CDR will help the dairy farmers back home.
Phone: 608-890-4963 | email jpronschinske@cdr.wisc.edu

Rebecca Kimball-Kilgore
Research Specialist
With years of experience within the dairy industry, Rebecca has extensive knowledge of many chemical and microbiological testing techniques of various dairy products. She is excited to have the opportunity to continue to enhance these skills in the analytical lab of CDR and provide accurate data to both researchers and industry clients. Rebecca has a degree in microbiology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and enjoys working in CDR’s environment of continuous research, outreach and education.
Phone: 608-262-9554 | email kimballkilgo@cdr.wisc.edu

Melissa Houfe
Research Cheesemaker, Cheese & Processing Groups
Mellisa is a licensed buttermaker, cheesemaker and actively involved as the 5th generation on her family’s dairy farm in southern Wisconsin. She also has years of experience in the dairy industry as well as an associate of science degree from MATC in the biotechnology laboratory technician program. Mellisa earned an undergraduate degree in dairy science from UW–Madison and, as a student, worked as a cheese processing technician in Babcock Hall. At CDR, Mellisa assists with the operations of the pilot plant, guiding research and helping with special projects. She is excited to use her diverse skills to assist and grow the dairy industry.
Phone: 608-265-1482 | email mhoufe@cdr.wisc.edu

Gary Grossen
Research Cheesemaker
Gary is a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker® (certified in Brick, Cheddar, Gouda, Havarti, Muenster) with more than 60 years of experience in the dairy industry. He worked in his family’s cheese plant in Monroe, Wisconsin for more than 50 years, making Brick, Muenster, Colby, and 200-pound wheels of Swiss in traditional copper kettles. In 2005, Grossen came to the University of Wisconsin and worked in the Babcock Dairy Plant where he made award-winning cheeses. At CDR, Grossen helps with all aspects of cheesemaking from milk pasteurization to assisting with research and industry trials. His cheeses have won many awards at national and international competitions. Most recently, his Gouda was named Cheese and Butter Grand Champion at the 2019 World Dairy Expo.
Phone: 608-263-3215 | email ggrossen@cdr.wisc.edu

Ben Oldenburg
Research Cheesemaker
Ben has worked for more than 25 years in dairy plants as a cheesemaker, supervisor and safety and loss control manager. Before CDR, Ben was a lead worker in the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant. Ben’s many years of experience in the dairy industry give him valuable knowledge and perspective. At CDR, Ben helps pasteurize milk, assist with industry trials and helps ensure that CDR’s research cheesemaking runs smoothly.
Phone: 608-263-3215 | email boldenburg@cdr.wisc.edu