By Thomas Siebertz
Whenever someone asks me about my major, I almost always get a confused look. The usual reply is, “So…you’re taking culinary arts?”. The next few minutes are spent trying to convince them I am not a chef, followed by a great discussion on all the wonderful things food science is and how I arrived in such a great place.
It usually goes like this: I have loved all things science since I was a kid. However, when I got to high school, I still lacked direction on what I wanted to do. I thought I wanted to be a doctor, but soon realized that it wasn’t for me after an eye-opening internship with an orthopedic surgeon. Feeling like I wanted to drop out of college, I met someone in the food regulatory world by chance and they told me exactly this: if you want to get a good job, study food science. I was skeptical, but I thought it was a better option than dropping out, so the next semester I changed my major to Food Science.
What a great decision I had made! It seemed as though I had missed out on a whole universe. I got to learn all about different kinds of foods and food processes, microbiology, chemistry, food sanitation (one of my personal favorites) and of course HACCP, one of the most important concepts in this industry. I remember one of the best classes I ever took was Brewing Science and Fermentations. We learned how to make beer, wine, cheese and even pickles! I remember wondering why no one ever told me about this before. I was so glad to finally find something worth doing. The previous semester I had been enrolled in health science and I actually had a whole class devoted to health insurance. What a nightmare!
I had a really great professor that would take us to every IFT meeting and help us network with people working in the industry. He also had great connections with local food companies and would take us on field trips to tour different food processors. Halfway through my second semester, I was offered a job at a seafood processing plant in the quality assurance department. I took the offer because they allowed me to work part time, while still in school. It was a great experience, which qualified me for my current job as a seafood inspector for the federal government and here I am today!
It feels great knowing I can apply my skills and experience over a wide variety of foods and processes. I also love the job security that goes along with the food science degree and working in the food industry. I only regret that I’ve had to turn down quite a few job offers because I would love to experience working in different segments of the food industry, but it just wouldn’t be practical to change jobs that often! I have only completed my Associate’s Degree so far and already have a great career. I am now pursuing my Bachelor’s in Food Science from Kansas State University, which will give me even more opportunities.
Of course, I always like to ask people, what got you into food science? What are some of your favorite subjects?