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
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
“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,