Do you like eating while doing your chemistry homework? Do you read the nutrition facts on the back of your cereal box in the morning? If so, a food sciences major might be for you.
Food science combines the disciplines of biology, chemistry, and engineering as it applies to food safety, product development, nutrition, and packaging. The goal of this major is to learn how agricultural products are developed into the food we see at stores. Majors learn everything from the harvest of goods to safe and efficient ways to transport and prepare food.
This major is appropriate for students who are comfortable in math and science, enjoy working in a lab, are interested in the chemistry of food, and like to solve problems. Problem-solving is an essential component of this major because food scientists are always looking for ways to increase the safety and efficiency of all steps in the preparation of food.
Students begin by acquiring a foundation in the sciences. Required courses typically include chemistry, biology, physics, and calculus. Students also take beginning courses in food sciences and nutrition. Courses are broken down into lectures and lab work so that students can get hands-on experience in areas such as food processing and preparation, and an analysis of the chemical composition of foods.
Some programs offer internships and research opportunities for students. Depending on the school, programs may focus on different aspects of food science. While courses will be offered in each of these areas, colleges may emphasize a specific branch such as food chemistry or food processing. Another notable consideration is whether or not a program is accredited by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).
The IFT accepts food science programs that establish and maintain high standards in areas it deems necessary. Students who are a part of IFT-certified programs are eligible for a Feeding Tomorrow Scholarship.
Regardless of the college students’ choice, food science majors leave the program with a great variety of skills. They will gain a strong knowledge base in key sciences. They will become well-versed in the methods of food harvesting, transportation, and processing. Students will understand how foods affect human health, and how fertilizers and pesticides impact the safety of foods. They also gain many soft skills essential for the workplace.
Because food science majors work in labs to attack real issues, students graduating from the program leave with well-developed problem-solving skills. They also become adept at handling equipment, designing, and running experiments, and drawing conclusions from data. The major is intended to prepare students for work in improving the safety and efficiency of food production, and majors leave with the ability to do just that.
There are many parts to the production of food, so majors have a wide variety of opportunities. Creative students who work well in teams might make good food technologists. Food technologists work with a team to research and develop new foods out of existing ingredients. Food technologists must make sure all laws are met and safety is prioritized.
Food nutritional therapists are good at interpreting complicated facts and simplifying hard material. Those in this profession work one-on-one to advise patients on creating a personal diet plan.
Students who are organized, strategic, and enjoy collecting data may be interested in working as a quality assurance manager. Managers ensure that food products meet all regulations and requirements. As someone ascends the ranks in this job, leadership skills become important.
Students may also become marketers for food product companies or food packaging companies, food toxicologists, or research managers.
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