Test tube food? Food science professor says field is growing

A combination of engineering, chemistry and physics, food science is changing the way we eat, professor Richard W. Hartel says.
A combination of engineering, chemistry and physics, food science is changing the way we eat, professor Richard W. Hartel says.

In his more than 30 years as a professor of food science, Richard W. Hartel has never seen a more idealistic group of undergraduates than the current crop at the University of Wisconsin. Few bachelor’s degrees can offer the job opportunities of food science. But will high-minded ideals hold back the next wave of newcomers?

What kind of jobs are your students typically aiming for?
Product development — coming up with new products that appear on grocery store shelves. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of products that get released every year by the major companies that are developed by food scientists.

Why are those jobs so coveted?
People feel a real personal fulfillment when they go to the grocery store and see their products on the shelves. Plus, it tends to be the highest-paid salary for people with degrees in food science.

There seems to be some cultural backlash against your industry at the moment.
There’s a big portion of the population that believes the food industry has led to unhealthy eating. In some respects, I agree. The industry has certainly gone overboard in some instances. People do interesting things when there’s money to be made.

How has this affected your students?
I’m noticing something unique — new to my 25 years in academia. Students are coming in that not only want to do food science, they want to change the way people eat. They want to change the way companies make foods. If they have a strict view on foods, that might limit where they can work. But I would never say don’t do it. I think it’s a great change.

Is there really rocket fuel in a Twinkie, or is that an urban legend?
Now that’s sensationalist journalism! [Laughs] There’s a compound called methylcellulose that controls water in the cream filling. It’s also used as a thickener in rocket fuel, but, no, it’s not rocket fuel.

By the numbers:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 13,360 people are employed as food scientists in the U.S. The mean annual wage is $64,140. Food scientists must have an advanced knowledge of chemistry, engineering and physics.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Sprint and T-Mobile offer further price discounts

Sprint unveiled a plan on Thursday that gives subscribers access to unlimited data for $60 a month, the industry's cheapest unlimited data offering.

National

Hundreds pay it forward at Florida Starbucks in…

The spontaneous chain of kindness continued for about 11 hours, totaling 457 transactions by the time it ended.

National

Weather system east of Caribbean could turn into…

An area of low pressure located east of the Caribbean Sea has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next 48 hours, U.S. forecasters…

National

U.S. hospital to discharge doctor treated with experimental…

An American doctor who contracted Ebola treating victims of the deadly virus in Liberia has recovered and will be discharged on Thursday by the Atlanta hospital that treated him with…

Movies

Review: 'When the Game Stands Tall' is both…

The high school football saga "When the Game Stands Tall" fumbles around for a focus while Jim Caviezel offers the most low-key coach in history.

Movies

Girlfriend in a coma: Chloe Grace Moretz

Chloe Grace Moretz is the best cheerleader "If I Stay" could ask for. As the star of the film adaptation of the successful YA novel…

The Word

The Word: Summer lovin' for Zac Efron and…

Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance between…

The Word

The Word: The Zac Efron-Michelle Rodriguez summer fling…

  Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance…

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…