A sweet way to apply food science

“We’re looking at Audrey Creamery I think it should be easy to make ice cream, but it really isn’t Callie Knell, professor of microbial food safety who teaches courses such as Food for Thought (ANFS 102) and Foodborne Illness: Investigating an Outbreak (ANFS 230). “Because of the freezing properties and the taste of the crystals in your mouth, you need to make it really perfect.”

According to Knell, students looking to pursue food science R&D must overcome the frustration of trying over and over again until they get the best product.

“Jane is a great fit for food science because she will persevere,” said Knell, who is Farnham’s academic advisor. “Ice cream is not a very forgiving matrix. Small changes make a big impact, and when you get even a little wrong, there is a noticeable difference.”

In this area, perseverance pays off. Because of their skills in applied science and their desire to hire food scientists, UD food science majors enjoy a 100% job placement rate in their chosen careers.

This internship experience encouraged Farnham to remain in the food science R&D sector, as well as to focus on the food science skills she developed while an undergraduate at the University of Florida.

Farnham particularly noted how much she enjoyed Kniel’s Food Microbiology course (ANFS 439/639) for food science majors.

“You learn about all these organisms in lecture and then actually apply them by making actual food products in the lab department,” Farnham said.

Budding food scientists study all the different microorganisms that can be found in food, from disease-causing microbes to those that are vital to food production.

“We have laboratories where we work on the laboratory basics of microbiology, such as bacterial counts,” Knell said. “We typically tie these technologies to some of the regulations that exist within the United States regarding the food supply, and then look at different testing strategies.

Students also study the fermentation process and make, for example, kimchi by following the microbial community as it changes during the fermentation process.

Although food science can sometimes be very tough and complex, it can also be very rewarding.

“A few weeks ago I was at Food Lion, and the flavor was on the shelves. I was crying because I spent the whole summer working on this project,” Farnham said. “I put my blood, sweat and tears into this, so it’s crazy that it’s now going to be a food product.” A real thing that people can buy.”

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