Gerardo U. Lopez, M.A.T., M.Ed., Ph.D. is an Associate Extension Specialist in 4-H STEM and an Assistant Professor in Food Safety and Environmental Microbiology at The University of Arizona, School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Lopez leads a statewide Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Leadership Team that implements a 4-H STEM Program, which brings engaging, problem-based learning and critical thinking STEM projects to underrepresented, urban, and rural youth across the state of AZ. These projects include the Greenhouse Sustainable Energy Engineering Design, (SEED); Cross Reality, Underwater Robotics; STEM Ambassador. Dr. Lopez’s interest in preparing the next generation of STEM professionals extends to offering undergraduate and graduate student research opportunities through his Food Safety and Environmental Microbiology Research program. Dr. Lopez has mentored more than 50 undergraduate and graduate students combined in partnership with the Western Alliance to Expand Student Opportunities (WAESO) and Arizona’s Science, Engineering, Math Scholars (ASESM) Programs. Dr. Lopez’s research program focuses primarily on determining the occurrence and prevalence of agricultural waters and fresh produce. This research is critical to help mitigate fresh produce outbreaks and reduce Cyclosporiasis infections caused by this human protozoan parasite. Novel molecular methods are used to detect Cyclospora oocysts such as quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), droplet digital (ddPCR), and target amplicon next-generation sequencing using the Oxford Nanopore MinION platform. Dr. Lopez’s research also focuses on understanding the presence and transmission of microbial pathogens in indoor and outdoor environments to develop better hygienic strategies for reducing the risk of exposure to harmful viruses and bacterial pathogens.