This year, Feeding Tomorrow granted $5,000 each to Cornell University and North Carolina State University to sponsor one student to participate in their respective Summer Scholars programs. These programs give students interested in food science the opportunity to conduct research under the mentorship of a faculty member and learn about career opportunities in the field. Kabreshia Cheatom, a food science major from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, attended Cornell’s program, while Anna Townsend, a biology major minoring in food science at the University of Kentucky, attended NC State’s.
Cheatom, a member of the food science club at Alabama A&M University, spent her summer studying sensory science under Terry Acree, which she says helped determine in which area of food science she’d like to work one day. “Because I’m doing research in the area of sensory science, I feel more certain that this is the area I would like to venture down as a potential career path,” she says. “To prepare for a future as a food scientist, I’ve just been trying to soak up as much knowledge as I can by participating in research, going to the IFT annual meeting, paying attention in the classroom, and taking advantage of the opportunities that are available to me.”
Townsend, meanwhile, completed research under Rodolphe Barrangou and his doctoral student Allie Briner, working on a project that utilizes bioinformatics to analyze the diversity, occurrence, and evolution of CRISPR-Cas systems in food-relevant microorganisms. “This scholarship has allowed me to explore potential careers and groundbreaking research in the food science field,” she says. “I am able to apply my knowledge and skills from biological and genetic research to the food science industry.”
Townsend, who didn’t realize she wanted to pursue a career in food science until her junior year, now plans to enter a professional science master’s program in food science. She advises high school students who are interested in the science of food as well as students already enrolled in food science programs to talk to the members of the food science administration within their universities to get more information about what the field is all about. “Do not be afraid to reach out to institutions to learn more about the field and explore your career options,” she says.
Cheatom also advises students to seek out research opportunities early in their education. “[Internships] can not only help you learn more about what you like but they can also help you determine what you don’t like about certain areas of food science, which gets you closer to knowing what avenue you would like to venture down in this degree,” she explains. Cheatom is a self-described “firm believer in the saying ‘you learn something new every day,’” and she encourages students to “look for opportunities to grow and expand their horizons and never let the fear of not knowing enough keep them from trying new things.”