One Student’s Perspective on Food Science and Why it Matters

Christine Rock, Student, Kansas State University

What made you choose your program?

I chose to study food science because a safe, nutritious and abundant food supply is essential for everyone. My program at Kansas State University equips students with the scientific and business skills necessary to take on the challenge of feeding the world. I want to be a part of that mission for the world’s most vulnerable populations.  

What aspirations do you have upon graduation?

My aspiration is to integrate food science and public policy. My ideal career leverages my education and passions to develop and advocate for policies that help lift people out of poverty through food and agricultural research, nutrition education and food and feeding programs.

What advice would you give to prospective students?

Choose a program that will develop your knowledge and skills in the direction of your passion. Food science students can explore and specialize to prepare for rewarding careers with a broad range of employers. I added a political science major and a global food systems secondary major to complement my food science studies and broaden my perspective. As I consider an advanced degree, I know Kansas State has flexible options through the global campus and master of agribusiness programs.

Who has been your biggest inspiration along your journey?

I have been most inspired by motivated, passionate and forward-thinking Kansas State students, faculty and staff focused on improving the global food system. This inspiration has been compounded by opportunities to develop on-campus food availability initiatives, conduct undergraduate nutrition policy and food safety research and experience leadership and professional development.

What exactly is food science, and what do food scientists do?

The role of food scientists

First, think about the various items you would normally throw into your grocery cart: milk, bread, canned goods, cereal, chips, cookies, soda, juice, cheese, etc.

Anything edible you throw into your grocery cart has been reviewed by food scientists who create, manufacture and market food items for you to take home and enjoy.

Fast food chain restaurants are also influenced by food scientists who ensure that the menu items are delicious, safe and ready to eat when you order.

At a trip to a convenience store, if you buy an energy drink, a donut or an ice-cream bar from the freezer, know that a team of food scientists have worked to create, produce and sell these products for your convenience – whenever and wherever you want it.

Facets of food science

Food science is the applied science devoted to the study of food. The Institute of Food Technologists defines food science as "the discipline in which the engineering, biological and physical sciences are used to study the nature of foods, the causes of deterioration, the principles underlying food processing and the improvement of foods for the consuming public.”

Activities of food scientists include the development of new food products, design of processes to produce these foods, choice of packaging materials, shelf-life studies, sensory evaluation of products using survey panels or potential consumers and microbiological and chemical testing. Food science brings together multiple scientific disciplines. It incorporates concepts from fields such as microbiology, chemical engineering and biochemistry.

Many well-known universities have world-class food science academic programs. These schools are the “feeder schools” for Fortune 500 food companies that need to hire food scientists on a regular basis to enable their business to grow, succeed and excel on a global level.