By: Kate Sweitzer
After spending an action-packed week in Las Vegas at the IFT annual meeting and food expo, I cannot help but reflect upon my journey into food science, how it started and where I am headed.
A common trend amongst food scientists is that food science was stumbled upon. It is a discovery major full of transfers, switched majors, and second degrees. In this way, I am an outlier. My story stems from two things: my awareness of food ingredients and my passion to create.
As a child I was more aware of my food due to a few intolerances to ingredients. I learned how to read ingredient statements. I made sure to stammer through every complicated word to check whether I could eat the treat or not. I learned that casein and whey are both milk proteins before allergen labeling changed to declaring “contains milk.” This kept me busy exploring packages and inquiring what was in my food.
My childhood hobbies included anything creative from sculpting to cookie decorating to dancing. There is a certain satisfaction to taking raw materials, fiddling with them, and producing something unique. You can imagine my plethora of gizmos, inventions, and craft projects that came out of such a childhood. Because of this propensity to create, I have always found joy in walking down the bright aisles of a grocery store amongst towering shelves of exciting new offerings. Constantly in awe of packaging changes, new flavors, and radically different concepts for food products, I reveled in spending a few hours in a store.
When I reached high school, I knew the inevitable planning for what to do with my life was necessary. I started poking around on the internet seeking whom is responsible for creating new food products. I found IFT.org.
That is right. Our website was my first introduction to the field. From there I sought out product development competitions and schools that competed in these competitions. This route led me to Washington State University, who highlighted their involvement on their school website as well. After 4 years of waiting anxiously to join IFTSA and another 2 until competing in a product development competition, I have now fulfilled my initial goals as a food scientist. I can proudly say that IFT is my reason for being a part of food science.
As I prepare to graduate next year, I am searching for a position that will give me the freedom to create and encourage my continued involvement in IFT.
Reflecting upon my path into food science, I am reminded of the role technology and online communication has played in my personal journey. Almost a decade ago, the internet was a vital piece of gathering information on food science for me. Now, as technology advances, it is even more critical that we curate our online presence. We need to be stewards for our profession in everything we do—communicating online is only one way we address the world. We need to encourage and inspire the next generation of young food scientists who are scouring the Internet for their future careers. Let’s show them what food science means to us!
Continue this discussion with your story. Use the comments section below to tell us how you got your start or how the world we live in is changing how we plan for our futures.