Dr. Robert Hutkins

Emeritus Professor
258 Food Innovation Center
Lincoln, NE 68588-6205

We believe in the power of every person.

Faculty Profile


The Hutkins Lab studies bacteria important in fermented foods and in human health. We are particularly interested in understanding: (1) factors affecting persistence and colonization of probiotic bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract; (2) how prebiotics shift the intestinal microbiota and metabolic activities in humans and animals; (3) how such shifts affect host health; and (4) how a combination of pro- and prebiotics (synbiotics) can enhance health outcomes.  We address these questions using next generation sequencing, metagenomics, and other molecular techniques. Both clinical in vivo, as well as in vitro approaches are used. We are also interested in the specific molecular mechanisms and pathways used by probiotic lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria to metabolize prebiotic oligosaccharides. Finally, our group has begun to develop application strategies for incorporating prebiotics into foods.


  • Ph.D. in Food Microbiology, 1984, from the University of Minnesota.
  • M.S. in Food Science, 1980, from the University of Missouri.
  • B.S. in Food Science, 1979, from the University of Missouri.


  • Kok, C.R., D.F.G. Quintero, C. Niyirora, D. Rose, A. Li, and R. Hutkins. 2019. An in vitro enrichment strategy for formulating synergistic synbiotics. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 85:e01073-19. 
  • Hutkins, R.W. 2019. Microbiology and Technology of Fermented Foods, 2nd Edition. John Wiley Press, London. 
  • Krumbeck, J.A., J. Walter, and R.W. Hutkins. 2018. Synbiotics for improved human health: Recent developments, challenges, and opportunities. Annu. Rev. Food Sci. Technol. 9:451-479. 
  • Krumbeck, J.A., H.E. Rasmussen, R.W. Hutkins, J. Clark, K. Shawron, A. Keshavarzian, and J. Walter. 2018. Probiotic Bifidobacterium strains and galactooligosaccharides improve barrier function in obese adults but show no synergism when used together as synbiotics. Microbiome. 6:121. 
  • Rezac, S., C.R. Kok, M. Heermann, and R. Hutkins. 2018. Fermented foods as a dietary source of live organisms. Front. Microbiol. 9:1785. 
  • Marco, M.L., D. Heeney, S. Binda, C.J. Cifelli, P.D. Cotter, B. Foligné, M. Gänzle, R. Kort, G. Pasin, A. Pihlanto, E.J. Smid, and R. Hutkins. 2017. Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond. Curr. Opin. Biotechnol. 44:94-102. 
  • Gibson, G.R., R. Hutkins, M.E. Sanders, S.L. Prescott, R.A. Reimer, S.J. Salminen, K. Scott, C. Stanton, K.S. Swanson, P.D. Cani, K. Verbeke, and G. Reid. 2017. Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of prebiotics. Nat. Rev. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 14:491-502. 
  • Maldonado-Gomez, M.X., I. Martínez, F. Bottacini, A. O’Callaghan, M. Ventura, D. van Sinderen, B. Hillmann, P. Vangay, D. Knights, R.W. Hutkins, and J. Walter. 2016. Stable engraftment of Bifidobacterium longum AH1206 in the human gastrointestinal tract depends on individualized features of the resident microbiome. Cell Host Microbe. 20:515–526.


Professional Experience

2023-Present: Emeritus Professor of Food Science and Technology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

1987 - 2023: Professor, Department of Food Science and Technology,
University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Appointment in the School of Biological Sciences.

1986 - 1987: Research Scientist, Sanofi Bio Ingredients, Inc.,
Waukesha, Wisconsin.

1984 - 1986: Post-Doctoral Research Associate,
Boston University School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology, Boston, Mass.

Research Areas

Notable distinctions

  • Khem Shahani Professor