I enjoy tending to my houseplants and chickens, spending time in nature, taking photographs of bryophytes and lichens, and eating delicious food with the people I care about. I also enjoy tasting flights of everything: (beer, cheese, gin, apples, etc.) and discussing nuances of subjective sensory experiences with friends and/or colleagues.
While attending OSU my focus was on brewing and distillation, and my first professional experience as a graduate was a winemaking internship at a sizable local winery. The total immersion into the process of large-scale wine production and laboratory work during harvest season was both interesting and exciting, despite the steep learning curve. It felt like a continuation of my education which was personally fulfilling. I have also worked at a brewery in the QA department, and now at 2 Towns in a QA/R&D role as well. Currently, I am heavily involved in recipe development. To see a project evolve from a concept, through rounds of benchtop trials and feedback, to large-scale production into a package has been incredibly fun and rewarding. Seeing everyone’s collective work that goes into a refined, finished product is a nice feeling.
Hopping on Opportunities
I had the pleasure of working in Dr. Shellhammer’s Hops Chemistry Lab at OSU during my senior year as an undergraduate. I became aware of the position through a departmental email and had time in my schedule to accommodate part-time work so I jumped on the opportunity to apply. Going through the application, interview, and hiring process in a department of familiar faces was helpful since it had been years since I had been employed. Having taken all the chemistry classes that are required for a Food Science & Technology degree, I knew that I enjoyed lab work and was interested in pursuing those skills. The experience working in the Hops Lab definitely set me up on a trajectory for future QA/Lab work and gave me directionality when looking for employment opportunities post-graduation.
As a mother of two young children, it would have been nearly impossible to pursue my educational goals without the support of my partner and close family members. I was determined to finish once I started though, and allowed myself extra time to complete my degree and attend classes part-time when needed, to avoid overburdening myself and burnout. I also applied for every grant that I qualified for, to combat the financial burden that often accompanies higher education.
Path to Food Science
When I enrolled in college, my plan was to start in biology, then focus on botany or mycology. However, I wasn’t sure how to translate my enjoyment of plants into a career that would be a viable option for me. I started learning about fermentation and brewing on my own. When I realized that some of my favorite foods and beverages are made from the interactions between microbes and agricultural products, I decided to switch my major. Food Science encompasses biology, chemistry, complex microbial ecological systems, and more. It is endlessly fascinating, and often delicious.
Take opportunities to get involved (internships, departmental job opportunities, clubs) during school if you can, especially if you lack professional work experience. Networking can be difficult but it is definitely worthwhile. It’s a small world, and who you know can make a difference. And sign up for an alumni employment email list if available. I found my brewery job through that avenue.