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Melding Faith and Science to Ensure Food Safety Worldwide

Brent Kobielush ’04 leads U.S. Regulatory Affairs for Cargill, Inc., the largest food and feed manufacturing company in the world. For his leadership and achievement, Bethel recognized him as one of the first 4 Under 40 Alumni Achievement Award recipients.

By Michelle Westlund '83, senior content specialist

December 15, 2020 | 3:30 p.m.

Brent Kobielush

Bethel chemistry major Brent Kobielush ’04 earned a Ph.D. in toxicology and served in leadership roles at General Mills and Cargill.

Science fascinated Brent Kobielush ’04 from a young age. In high school, he wanted to be a cardiac surgeon. In college, he had plans to be a chemist. At Bethel, he majored in chemistry while considering his next steps—and found some inspiration from an unlikely source. “Most people will laugh, but I first heard about the field of toxicology when I watched the movie The Rock,” he says. The 1996 action film starred Nicholas Cage as a biochemist and toxicologist who serves as an FBI chemical and biological weapons specialist. Intrigued by the occupation, Kobielush began researching the discipline of toxicology—the study of poisons and their effects on people, animals, and the environment—and went on to earn an M.S. and Ph.D. in the field. Today, he leads U.S. Regulatory Affairs for Cargill, Inc., the largest food and feed manufacturing company in the world. For his leadership and achievement, Bethel recognized Kobielush as one of the first 4 Under 40 Alumni Achievement Award recipients.  

The road to Bethel was paved by Kobielush’s parents and numerous uncles—all Bethel alumni—and Bethel seemed a natural fit for his strong interest in the sciences. “I didn’t want to deal with the inevitable conflict that would come along with a secular education,” he explains. “In other words, I didn’t want to have to vigorously defend my faith while getting a world-class education.” He knew he’d found a home when his first class at Bethel, General Chemistry, began with his professor opening the Bible and sharing a devotional. “I knew, then, that I was in the right place,” he says.

In fact, faculty were a significant influence throughout Kobielush’s Bethel journey. “Each professor I had prepared me for the road ahead,” he says. “The smaller class sizes really helped me absorb the information and apply it appropriately, and the personalized learning prepared me for graduate school. Most importantly, each professor instilled confidence and resilience in me, and this has allowed me to be successful.” As Kobielush studied the field, he realized many toxicological professionals had graduate degrees, and his advisor, Dr. Ken Rohly, urged him to consider graduate school as part of his career path. “I owe a lot of my success to his guidance and wisdom,” says Kobielush.

“Today, many people think that science and faith are mutually exclusive. Nothing is further from the truth. To me, studying science is a form of worship.”

— Brent Kobielush ’04

After graduating from Bethel with a chemistry degree, Kobielush embarked on a five-year journey toward a Ph.D., choosing the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, New York, for its diverse fields of study in toxicology. There, he narrowed his focus to the food safety sector, and in 2009, launched his career as manager of toxicology at General Mills, where he assured the chemical composition of all products meets applicable product safety and regulatory standards. He currently serves as U.S. Regulatory Affairs Director at Cargill, Inc., providing leadership and technical regulatory direction to ensure Cargill products and processes are compliant with all applicable U.S. FDA food laws and regulations. “My primary responsibility is to ensure Cargill products are safe,” he says. “When you see products in the grocery store that utilize Cargill ingredients, it’s gratifying to know that I played a role in ensuring their safety and regulatory compliance.”

In his day-to-day work, Kobielush has ample opportunity to consider both the value and the limitations of science, and to bring his faith into his decision making. “Applying scientifically based principles in my day-to-day work is extremely important,” he says, “but there’s a limit to what science tells us. Therefore, character and integrity are essential in making sure the right decisions are made. In my current role, biblically based character and integrity—coupled with an appreciation and application of scientific principles—tend to lead to sound decision making.”

This integration of faith and science is a guiding principle in Kobielush’s journey. “Today, many people think that science and faith are mutually exclusive,” he says. “Nothing is further from the truth. To me, studying science is a form of worship. I am in awe of the detail of God’s creation. How can you not be totally amazed? A friend in graduate school questioned how I could still believe in God when I was learning so much about the intricacies of pharmacology, physiology, toxicology, and biology. I looked at him and said, ‘I don’t know how you DON’T believe in God. To explain what you and I know about science and not acknowledge a divine Creator is mind-boggling to me.’”

Nominate someone for the 4 Under 40 Achievement Award.

Bethel University's National Alumni Board annually seeks and accepts nominations for the 4 Under 40 Alumni Achievement Award. The selection is made from Bethel University graduates 40 years of age or younger who have had outstanding achievements in career, public service, and/or volunteer activities.

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