WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — What does it take to turn raw ingredients into safe, viable food options that will feed the world? Students studying food science at Purdue University are on a mission to answer this question.

Around two million are employed in the food processing industry, making food science a relevant field of study. Purdue’s Food Science Department is known for educating future leaders of the industry.

“It’s one of the top programs around,” said Donna Keener, academic coordinator “We have a strong relationship with industry that makes it easy for us to find internships and place students in jobs. We have 100 percent job placement. I think the industry connection is important.”

Courses in microbiology, chemistry and engineering are just a few of the prerequisites necessary to earn a degree in food science.

Students learn a variety of subjects to prepare them for careers in food regulation, quality assurance, research, sales, product development and more.

“Many students start off interested in product development, coming up with new products,” Keener said. “Most end up in working in quality assurance. They pay attention to every step of food manufacturing to make sure it’s safe and quality is high.

“Sometimes a student might work for (Food and Drug Administration) or (U.S. Department of Agriculture). Sometimes they go into technical sells. For example, at ConAgra, they might sell starches to Kraft or Kellogg. There’s a lot that goes on in the food industry that people don’t see.”

Food science student Patrick Polowsky of Chesterton came to Purdue to study engineering. After learning about food science, he decided that the College of Agriculture was where he belonged.

“The classes I take cover a range of disciplines, so there is always something to keep me interested,” he said. “The atmosphere of the Food Science Department is unlike most on campus. The students develop close relationships with each other, as well as the faculty and staff.”

Polowsky described the department as a place with an informal atmosphere where it is easy to learn.

“I’ve been working in a lab in the department since my sophomore year, and it’s an experience I truly enjoy,” he said “It’s a little glimpse of what graduate school would look like, and it’s a great way to learn more about topic areas outside the classroom.”

Around half of food science majors, such as Polowsky, are involved with undergraduate research.

“All of our professors are doing research of some kind, food chemistry, processing and technology, safety, microbiology,” Keener explained. “They (undergraduates) can see how research is done and get to know professors and grad students.”

Besides research, students can be involved with extracurricular activities, such as the Food Science Club, and study-abroad programs.

“We have several study abroad opportunities,” Keener said. “One that’s popular is a trip to Italy looking at pasta production, meats and wine. One was to Brazil to look at ethanol and meat production. Last year, one of our professors went to Haiti.

“Food science students can go on opportunities offered by other departments, too, so they could go almost anywhere in the world.”

Professors in the food science department not only lead study abroad trips, but also are involved with Extension work.

“It’s about supporting the food industry in Indiana,” Keener said. “They might go to a place where they are canning something and have trouble with corrosion. They would do tests and observe the canning process to see what was causing it.”

For more information on the department’s latest discoveries, visit www.ag.purdue.edu/foodsci.