BY: MACKENZIE HANNUM
IFT17 is an annual conference where food science professionals come to recharge, engage, and be blown away by academia’s latest research and industry’s latest innovations (http://www.iftevent.org/). IFT17 is the mecca of all food science events, and provides foodies from around the world an opportunity to celebrate new discoveries and engage in thoughtful discussions regarding the direction and sustainability of our food system for the next 20 years.
I had the immense pleasure of interviewing both Dr. John Coupland and Matthew Teegarden, active presidents of IFT and IFTSA respectively, about IFT17. These annual meeting experts provided me with some insider tips and tricks for the upcoming event taking place in Las Vegas, June 25th-28th!
So, without further ado allow me to introduce our first interviewee, Dr. John Coupland!
Dr. John Coupland is a Professor of at Pennsylvania State University whose specialty is food chemistry and the physical chemistry of foods. He teaches a class called “Food, Values and Health,” that investigates the perceived relationship between food and health, and how people’s values contribute to that relationship.
MH: Will your role as IFT President bring any exciting new experiences to your IFT annual event this year?
JC: It will be pure madness…probably the busiest few days of my life but it will be pretty brilliant and exciting though as I get to meet people I probably would not meet otherwise.
MH: Can you tell me a little bit more about IFT Next?
JC: IFT Next allows us to be more forward looking and is essentially a brand of thinking that runs across the IFT meeting, challenging us to be more proactive. We wanted to make IFT accessible to entrepreneurs by creating the Start-Up Alley, very similar to that of the food expo. IFT Next allows us to respond to what people are interested in now and have relevant and insightful discussions.
To learn more about IFTNext and foster your imagination check out the featured sessions click HERE.
MH: What do you think food scientists can learn from visiting the Start-Up Alley in IFT17?
JC: By simply talking to the entrepreneurs about their product you can hear their passion within seconds. Food Scientists can learn from their innovation, excitement, and belief in their product and translate it to their work. Within our scope of work we do really important work and can make a huge impact.
List of companies participating in the Start-Up Alley click HERE.
MH: What should students be most excited about at IFT17?
JC: Students should be most excited for the conversations they are about to have. You can learn about any research idea by reading the paper carefully but that is only half the story. If you are a student you need to couple interesting content with interesting people. Attending the poster session is 50% content, 50% people and you have a great opportunity to make connections and engage in thoughtful discussions.
MH: Which featured session are you most excited for?
JC: While they all look great, I am most looking forward to the panel discussion about ‘Processed food—the good, the bad and the science.’ Communication is composed of both talking but also listening and I believe this conversation will bring up criticisms that are worth talking about. The panel comes from a diverse set of backgrounds and they all have something to say and we should listen to it.
Check out all the featured sessions click HERE.
MH: What advice do you have for future food scientists attending the conference?
JC: Making a small social connection is powerful. Sometimes this is labeled as networking but it is so much more than that. This is a community you will be spending your life in. Get to know the people you are spending it with.
Next up…Matthew Teegarden!
Matthew Teegarden is a fifth year PhD student at The Ohio State University. His research focuses on food chemistry and functional foods. Matt is from Ohio originally and is known for his ferocious sweet tooth.
MH: Are there any “hidden” gems at IFT17 that first-time students might want to learn more about?
MT: They should definitely attend the first-timer session. It typically draws quite a crowd. IFT can be really overwhelming—so much going on and to look at. The goal of this session is to break it down and make it more accessible. It is also a great time to meet other people! You will get a tour of the student area and a lay of the student land at IFT17.
MH: What advice might you have for students who have attended annual meetings in the past and are returning to IFT17?
MT: I would challenge them to try and look for different experiences. Keep an eye out for some of the new programming and lastly, I would challenge students to see how they can learn more about their research. Explore the expo floor and learn from companies who might be currently applying your research in the field.
MH: What are you most looking forward to at IFT17?
MT: Seeing everyone! The more you go to these events the more people you get to know! This is also the culminating event for the year for many students as finalists in competitions, the national round of college bowl, and research presentations. It’s time to celebrate all the great work students have done this year!
MH: Have any advice for students about networking at IFT?
MT: Bring business cards! They don’t need to be fancy, but can really help facilitate making those connections. Also, if you do make a great connection, write where you met the person and a little about your interaction on the back of their business card. This makes it super easy to follow up later.
MH: So we all saw you rocking a “showgirl” headdress in a recent IFT17 promotional video, do you have any plans to explore Las Vegas?
MT: Definitely! I have never been to Las Vegas so I hope to see a show of some sort and explore as much as I can!
MH: Looking back on all the annual meetings you have attended, what is your favorite memory?
MT: I would say my favorite memory was at my first IFT event in Chicago, when I first walked in and realized just how big the event was. I was simultaneously overwhelmed and excited but could tell immediately there is a strong sense of community within the world of food.
After talking with both Dr. John Coupland and Matthew Teegarden it is safe to say that IFT17 will be…wait for it…LEGENDARY! We can’t wait to see you all there!