From biochemistry major to a career in food science

Abena Opoku ’10, Food Scientist

Major: Biochemistry

Research Group: Dr. Jeffery Knight Lab

Employer: Saputo Dairy Foods

Food science is a really broad field which involves the application of “microbiology, biochemistry, chemistry, engineering, nutrition, culinary science to the application of food and food packaging for the creation, maintenance or improvement of foods” (www.ift.org). I have been privileged to gain experience in two aspects of this field; product development and regulatory, which both require a sold background in biochemistry and chemistry.

With product development, a foundation in chemistry and biochemistry is crucial because you need to understand the interactions that different ingredients undergo while developing a food product. This would help you to formulate the best, and least expensive, product for the consumer. For instance, if you are developing mayonnaise, an understanding of how emulsifiers are made and the chemistry behind it would help dictate which ingredients to pick for making that product.

Regulatory science deals more with ensuring that ingredients used to make the product and the finished product meet government regulations and consumer expectations. Without an understanding of what the product is, and how it was made, it would be challenging to ensure the food meets the government regulations nor address consumer concerns about the product. Hence that chemistry based background is very helpful.

Aside from the technical know how I gained with my biochemistry background, there is a certain rigor in training that is gained through the Biochemistry Program. In the corporate world you need to be resilient and be able to press through challenges at work and that is exactly what the program prepares you for. It also prepares you to be able to think critically and to come up with unconventional solutions to issues, which have gone a long way to help me in my career.