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Food Science Now On the Table At Clarke

Food science is a fast-growing industry and Clarke University will help students prepare for a career in this field when we introduce a food science major for the fall of 2014.

Food science is an applied science in which chemical, biological and physical principles are applied to study the nature of food and its deterioration. The studies are utilized to evaluate and improve consumer foods and associated processes. Students will study principles from a variety of academic fields including chemistry, biology, microbiology, nutrition, engineering and psychology. These principles will be applied to improve the flavor, color, texture and nutritional value, among other factors, in food.

“On behalf of Clarke, we are excited to offer a unique food science program that has mostly been offered by large schools thus far,” said Sunil Malapati, associate professor of chemistry. “We designed the program tailored to Clarke’s strengths after extensive interaction with food industry professionals and business leaders in the tri-state area. Students will work in a newly designed Food R&D Lab that will complement the cutting-edge labs in Clarke’s new Center for Science Inquiry.

“Personally speaking as a chef and a foodie, I am excited to introduce students to careers in food science they may not have considered before."

Food science is very different than culinary science. The bachelor’s in food science program at Clarke is designed to produce a work-ready food scientist. Rigorous coursework and laboratory work in the newly designed Food R & D Lab in combination with internship opportunities will prepare students for a career in the food science industry. The field of food science is vast with numerous employment opportunities in the tri-state area and beyond. Some of the career opportunities in food science include flavor researcher, food production manager, food and drug inspector, quality assurance specialist, process researcher and food safety technologist.

Here’s what prominent people in the food science industry have to say about this growing field and Clarke’s new major.

Frank Babka, philanthropist and volunteer speaker on world resources, energy, population and the environment:

"The challenges of providing adequate and safe food and water for over 7 billion people on Earth are formidable. For thousands of years, humans often suffered from poor nutrition and sanitation, and had little or no way to combat disease-causing microorganisms. Through the dogged efforts of scientists, teachers and businesspeople, the food supply in modern nations is now better and safer than it has ever been. But formidable challenges remain, and eternal vigilance is required. Both developing and developed nations face challenges in improving their food production and distribution systems, and there are arguments worldwide about which agricultural and food production methods are proper.

“I worked as a transportation manager for Cargill Inc. for 14 years. As one of the largest food and agriculture companies in the world, Cargill wrestles with the above problems on a daily basis. So do other companies, plus governments and nonprofit organizations. Research and training done at academic institutions is of paramount importance in conjunction with these other institutions. The world is very much in need of well-trained individuals who work in the areas of food production, research and distribution. For years, the vast heartland region of America has served as one of the most important and innovative areas for food in the world. And Clarke's campus sits in the middle of this region."

Rob Wahlert, corporate manager Business Development, Hormel Foods Corporation; member of the Clarke University Board of Trustees:

"I see the food science major, and those who obtain this degree and pursue a career in this field, as vital to the future of the food industry. Their research and contributions will help to ensure food safety, spur new product development, continue the global fight against hunger, and improve the nutritional characteristics and preparation convenience of food.

“Hormel Foods was pleased to partner with Clarke in its development of the food science program in 2012 by hosting Sister Diana Malone and Professor Sunil Malapati of Clarke's chemistry department at our company's Austin, Minn., headquarters and research and development facility. This allowed us to discuss and share our view of this degree from an industry perspective.

The Clarke faculty also visited with plant manager Mark Zelle at our Progressive Processing plant in Dubuque, to see firsthand how food science applications are used at the operational production level.While in Austin we were also able to introduce Diana and Sunil to the researchers at the Hormel Institute and visit the research center to discuss how the field of food science can add significant value to basic research areas such as cancer prevention."

Gerri Kustelski, head of Quality Assurance at Summit Brewing Company in St. Paul, Minn.:

“Food Science is a critical field in today’s world. We have an increasing population to feed and there are increasing threats to many of our food sources. Food scientists are necessary to protect current sources and to help develop new ones. They assure quality in food products and, more importantly, ensure safety.”

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