Faculty and Staff Profiles

Dr. Stephan SommerDr. Stephan Sommer, Interim Director, Fermentation Sciences

  • Engineering diploma in Beverage Technology, Hochschule Geisenheim University, Germany
  • PhD Microbiology and Wine Science, Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany

Dr. Sommer joined ASU in 2013 to further develop the rapidly growing Fermentation Sciences program. He has more than eight years industry experience in various fields of beverage production including wineries, sparkling wine companies, breweries, table water production, and related fields like laboratories and industrial flavor production. He managed a commercial beverage laboratory and was involved in research projects and student education for the German wine industry. His main research focus is on product stability, beverage microbiology, and wine aging.

Dr. Sommer earned an Engineering Diploma in Beverage Technology from the Hochschule Geisenheim University (Geisenheim, Germany) and a PhD in Microbiology and Wine Science from the Johannes Gutenberg University (Mainz, Germany). His teaching responsibilities include Introduction to Fermentation Science, Sensory Science, Facility Design and Operations, Viticulture, Wine Production and Analysis, Biofuels and Bioprocessing, Fermented Beverages of the World,  and Fermented Meat and Dairy.


Dr. Brett Taubman, Department of Chemistry

  • B.S. Finance, Penn StateDr. Brett Taubman
  • B.S. Chemistry, Montana State
  • Ph.D. Chemistry, U. Maryland
  • Post-doctoral, Penn State

Dr. Brett Taubman is a faculty member of the A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry at Appalachian State University, engaged in instruction and academic research within Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences. He has earned BS degrees in both Finance and Chemistry from the Pennsylvania State University and Montana State University, respectively, and a PhD in Analytical and Environmental Chemistry from the University of Maryland in 2004. Following his graduate studies, he worked as a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the Pennsylvania State University before joining the chemistry faculty at Appalachian in 2007. Dr. Taubman has successfully developed a pilot instructional brewing facility on the ASU campus and currently serves as President of Ivory Tower, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation with the mission of supporting research and education within fermentation sciences. He helped to develop the four-year degree program in Fermentation Sciences and shares time between that program and the Chemistry Department. He has been brewing and teaching brewing sciences and technology for over 10 years and is a member of the American Society of Brewing Chemists, Master Brewers Association of the Americas, and the Institute of Brewing and Distilling.

Dr. Taubman's current research interests include the development of aroma fingerprints for beers using Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry coupled with Olfaction Detection (GC/MS-O), the isolation and genetic fingerprinting of native yeast and bacteria for use in bioprocessing and waste remediation studies, quantification of alpha and beta acids and essential oils in several varieties of hops currently grown in NC, and the development of a gluten-free beer from non-barley adjuncts.

Dr. Taubman's current teaching responsibilities include Introduction to Fermentation Science, Brewing Science and Analysis, Instrumental Analysis, Quantitative Analysis, Introduction to Chemical Research, Environmental Chemistry, and Introductory Chemistry.


Mr. Russell Kuhfeld, Fermentation Sciences

Mr. Russell Kuhfeld

  • B.S. Business Administration, Appalachian State University.

Mr. Kuhfeld has served as Operations Manager for the brewing facility at Appalachian State University since 2012, including contributions to both the original design and construction of the brewery. He has managed student and faculty brewing both in the ASU facility and in collaborative sessions with commercial breweries. Mr. Kuhfeld also coordinates the Enology / Craft Beverage Services laboratory for the Fermentation Sciences program, a professional lab that provides chemical, microbiological, and sensory analysis for commercial producers including wineries, vineyards, breweries, distilleries, kombucharies, cideries, hopyards, and barley growers in the region.


Ms. Christy McAlister, Fermentation Sciences

Ms. Christy McAlister

  • B.A. Global Studies,  Appalachian State University

Christy McAlister is the Administrative Support Assistant for the Fermentation Sciences Department at Appalachian State University. She earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Global Studies with a concentration in German Studies at Appalachian State University. During this time, she studied abroad in France, Germany multiple times, and Austria. She has a variety of work experience, ranging from construction office to medical environments. With a passion for Higher Education, particularly the Humanities & Sciences, Christy is excited to be a part of the Fermentation Sciences Department in the College of Arts and Sciences. She actively champions and promotes International Education, Study Abroad opportunities, and Foreign Language Education. Christy grew up in Boone, and feels strongly about Environmental Protection and Conservation. 



Dr. Mike HambourgerDr. Mike Hambourger, Department of Chemistry

  • B.S. Biology, Appalachian State University
  • Ph.D. Chemistry, Arizona State University

Dr. Hambourger is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Appalachian State University, where he enjoys his role as an educator and scientist. Following receipt of his B.S. in 2001, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, promoting alternative energy technologies. In 2008, Dr. Hambourger received his Ph.D. in Chemistry, followed by one year of post-doctoral experience at Arizona State University. Dr. Hambourger joined the faculty of Appalachian State University in 2009. His research interests pertain to the use of sunlight to meet future energy demands. Within the Department of Chemistry, Dr. Hambourger is exploring the surface immobilization of cobalt-based electrocatalysts for the interconversion of electrical and chemical energy, as well as related system for photochemical energy transduction. Through collaboration with faculty in the Departments of Technology and Biology at Appalachian State University, Dr. Hambourger also is pursuing biological methods of producing fuels and remediating waste.


Dr. Seth CohenDr. Seth Cohen, Adjunct Faculty, Fermentation Sciences

  • B.S. Chemical Engineering, University of Rhode Island, Kingston
  • M.S. Food Science and Tech, Oregon State University, Corvallis
  • Ph.D. Food Science and Tech, Oregon State University, Corvallis

Dr. Cohen came to ASU with the explicit directive to develop, implement and foster the Fermentation Science degree program. Dr. Cohen has a BS in Chemical Engineering and an MS and PhD in Food Science and Technology. He has 4 years professional experience in wine production, 4 years in professional academic research, and 2 years of experience teaching wine production and sensory science as a graduate research assistant at Oregon State University.

In his first year on campus, Dr. Cohen developed the FER curriculum and spearheaded successful grant writing efforts that brought over $250,000 into the development of the Fermentation Science program. He has also organized a multi-disciplinary projects with faculty and staff in the colleges of Business and Technology, and is the Principal Investigator on multiple outreach and collaboration projects involving grape, wine, beer, and hops producers.