By Bryan Quoc Le | 150 Food Science Questions Answered
In the past five years, the wonderful world of food has changed drastically. A new wave of food creation is coming, with the impending revolution of cellular agriculture, synthetic biology, and artificial intelligence potentially changing the game on how food is grown, processed, and delivered. But regardless of the latest technology trends, the need for food will be here to stay, and so food science will always be a discipline in demand. As they say, everyone’s got to eat. That’s why here at Science Meets Food, five years after our first we still believe that food science is a great field of study to get into during your college years. We even went so far as to survey our wonderfully esteemed colleagues, whom we graciously thank.
And so, for 2018, (drum roll, please) we present the updated top ‘Six Reasons Why’ you should study food science (clicking on the links is highly encouraged for the full experience):
- It’s Practical
The field of food science empowers its students with the tools and skills to tackle the growing challenges involved in the food industry. Unlike many other scientific disciplines, food science grew directly out of the needs of the industry as food companies needed more educated applicants with scientific backgrounds to analyze, test, and develop products. There is always a direct and relevant application for what you learn in class. Internships and practical projects are strongly encouraged in the curriculum, alongside product development competitions sponsored by the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association. The world of food also has ample opportunities for passionate students to find meaningful work in feeding a growing world with safe, healthy, nutritious food.
- It Keeps Money in the Bank
Speaking of opportunity, the food industry is growing fast, with high-tech Silicon Valley startups and corporate food incubators coming into the mix at astonishing speeds. That means more money is flooding into the food industry than ever before, and more jobs are going to be available in the coming future. Well-trained food scientists are in high demand with an average base annual salary of $69,960. The food science discipline is also versatile and allows many of its graduates to transition into food business marketing, regulatory, or analyst roles. Other opportunities also include going out on your own and consulting for small food businesses or moonlighting as a freelance food writer with food industry experience in hand.
- It’s a Foodie’s Paradise
Since food is the name of the game, foodies all over the world should rejoice. The study of food allows students to get knee deep in their favorite food products developed by their favorite companies. If you’re lucky enough, they even might just hire you and you’ll get the inside scoop on how those very same food products are made. And those product development competitions I just mentioned? They give students a chance to test their chops by designing their own foods for a cool couple-grand award. The icing on the cake is that there’s just so much food leftover from test kitchens, prototype courses, industry visits, and career fairs, it’s almost overwhelming. Your stomach will always be full (:
- It Feeds Your Creativity…
Food, beyond bare nutritional needs, is a creative endeavor. Food is an incredible artistic palette to play with, from its flavor, texture, color, taste, and smell, all the way to the packaging it comes in. Admit it, food is delicious, fun, and exciting. Today’s food landscape is filled with celebrity chefs, world-class baking competitions, hot food startups, and Michelin 3-star restaurants. There’s no lack of inspiration to draw upon. The art and science of food is becoming an increasingly huge hit in the world, as more food writers, researchers, and culinary artists become involved in pushing the boundaries on food. Indeed, food science has been given haute cultural status from food icons such as Michael Pollan, Nathan Myhrvold, the Nordic Food Lab, Kenji Lopez-Alt, and so many others. Not to mention our very own Institute of Food Technologists is always busy putting together work in the pipeline, like the Food Technology magazine, newsletters, the IFT annual meeting, and the recent debut of Food Evolution just to name a few things. National Geographic even put out a monthly series to explore the future of food. Food science is hot and only getting hotter, with fresh creative perspectives and intellectually stimulating ideas always simmering in the background.
- …and Your Curiosity
Ever wonder why bags of chips always have so much air in them or how they get the fizz in fizz candy? Look no further, the study of food science will answer all (most?) of your questions! Many food science students report that curiosity drew them into the field, with many intellectual challenges available to those who pursue both academic and industrial careers. The truth is that food requires so many different disciplines, from microbiology to chemistry to engineering, that the science and technology behind food would require decades of study, so there’s almost always something new to learn when looking into food!
- Last but not least…It Takes a Village
Some students report getting into the food sciences because the food industry is filled with warm employees and work environments. Being near food seems to bring out a certain welcoming attitude in the workforce. But because people are keenly aware that their work involves feeding others, many food industry employees feel a sense of pride and responsibility in their jobs knowing that their products will go on to feed their own family. Both the food industry and food science programs are relatively small across the nation, and so there’s also a sense of camaraderie, respect, and kinship between students and employees alike. It’s one way to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and our own individual lives.
Really, we’re all in it together to help feed the world!
And just in case you forgot (or skimmed) them all, here are our ‘Six Reasons’ in TL;DR format:
- It’s Practical
- It Keeps Money in the Bank
- It’s a Foodie’s Paradise
- It Feeds Your Creativity
- It Feeds Your Curiosity
- It Takes a Village
Photo courtesy of Drinkpreneur.com
Bryan Quoc Le | 150 Food Science Questions Answered
IFTSA VP of Digital and Social Media (2019-2020)
Bryan is the author of 150 Food Science Questions Answered (Rockridge Press, 2020) and a Ph.D. candidate in Food Science at University of Wisconsin-Madison studying the health effects of garlic and onion flavors. He received his B.S. and M.S. in Chemistry at the University of California, Irvine. In another life, he walked 2,000 miles from California to Louisiana in six months, and learned that eating tuna and peanut butter every day was not meant for the average human body. After he met his wife, he learned that there was more to good food than canned goods and smoothies. While not juicing onions and pressing garlic, Bryan likes to run half-marathons, discover interesting cuisines with his wife, and help entrepreneurs develop great food products.