Mary Ellen Camire, PhD
Food fascinated me even as a young girl. Looking back, a kindergarten field trip to a local potato chip factory probably set the hook for me to become a food scientist later in life. In high school I had no idea one could study food in college. I assumed that nutritionists studied food. When I applied to the M.S. program at University of Massachusetts, I was surprised to find that the degree was in food science and nutrition. Thus began my introduction to food science and to IFT. Before I began my doctoral studies, I had the opportunity to work as a part-time independent contractor for Frito Lay's consumer testing program. My interest in sensory evaluation continued when I started my Ph.D. program at Texas Woman's University, where I helped with consumer testing for Coca Cola Foods. Frito Lay graciously allowed me to use its pilot plant to begin my career in extrusion processing. After graduation I moved to Maine and I have been here since 1989 promoting food science education and the growing Maine food industry. Although my faculty appointment is 25% teaching and 75% research, I have worked with many food companies, ranging in size from home-based processors with one or two staff to multinational corporations. My training in human nutrition has allowed me to assist the wild blueberry, cranberry, potato and other commodity groups in promotion of their products' health benefits. For over 13 years I served as an IFT food science communicator and later as an IFT spokesperson to advance the field of food science as well as educate the public about IFT. I feel that promoting sound science in lay publications is every bit as important as instructing my students in the classroom. On IFT's behalf I have testified in U.S government hearings on topics ranging from dietary supplement labeling to safety of imported foods. I have served our food science field as a panelist on U.S. Department of Agriculture competitive grant panels, and I was also the panel manager for post-harvest food safety competitive grants and the Small Business Innovative Research Food Science and Nutrition panel. My expertise has been sought for grant reviews by funding agencies in Finland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, and other nations. Despite living in a small, rural state, I have mentored students from several nations and have made presentations on four continents.
What do you feel you can contribute to the growth and advancement of IFT?
I look forward to the opportunity to expand my advocacy for food science and IFT as President-Elect. My nearly 15 years of experience teaching on-line classes and conducting research using web-based surveys and social networking have given me a good background from which to evaluate IFT's electronic communications for new opportunities. I think that we have opportunities to draw new members from small-and medium-sized organizations and that IFT should explore new services for members working in large corporations. IFT has provided me with media training and advocacy experience that I will utilize to promote IFT both in the U.S. and around the world.
What are the three most important strategic issues facing the profession and the industry that align with IFT's goals and how would you address these as a member of the Board of Directors?
First, worldwide there is a pending shortage of trained scientists to work in food science and related fields. Although enrollments are rising at my university and at other schools, IFT must continue to promote food science as a career and support efforts to aid more students financially. Much of IFT's efforts have been focusing on attracting undergraduate students to food science. I believe that there is untapped potential to recruit adults who hold undergraduate degrees in basic sciences and engineering to graduate programs in food science. A related issue is the reduction in U.S. federal funds for competitive research grants in food science and nutrition. Coupled with decreases in basic and applied research in the private sector, this loss of research support could leave the U.S. and other nations unprepared for changes in the food supply and consumer demand. IFT could be an effective link between companies and federal and academic researchers to leverage government funds with private dollars to increase knowledge and develop new technologies that benefit everyone. Communication is the third important strategic issue that I would like to address. IFT has a website with many opportunities for members to share information, but a relatively small number of members do so, at least in several of the communities to which I belong. Blast emails and tweets can lose their impact if they are used frequently. How can IFT members share their concerns or ideas with staff and elected leaders quickly? If elected, I would begin evaluation of alternative technologies to inform the membership of pending changes in programs or policies to elicit constructive feedback.
Why do you want to serve on the Board of Directors and how has your work and volunteer experiences prepared you to be a strategic board member?
I accepted the nomination to be a candidate for the position of President-elect because I feel I can contribute the time and energy to serve this organization that has meant so much to me personally and professionally. From serving as a student representative to the Nutrition Division in the 1980's to later chairing that Division, then serving on numerous IFT committees and Task Forces, I feel that I have a strong understanding of IFT's structure, balanced by an awareness of member needs and external forces on the field of food science. With nine years of continuous board service, first to IFT, then to AACC International as a board member and president, and also to the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, I gained broad experience with day-to-day as well as strategic planning for a scientific society. Leading a scientific organization approximately 1/10th the size of IFT allowed me to implement new policies and programs very quickly. Although my presidency of AACC International coincided with a major financial downturn, the society was able to maintain a stable financial balance and even made a profit from its annual meeting. Many changes were implemented during my term to change the annual meeting, and concepts such as scientific foci for meetings have now been adopted by IFT. My leadership experience at AACCI also afforded me the opportunity to strengthen my skills in intercultural communication and the view of an organization as global, not local. I have attended two officer training workshops held by the Council for Engineering and Scientific Society Executives that provided me with insight for successful strategic planning as well as interactions with society staff and members. IFT has invited me to participate in its Strategic Planning Meetings for 2011 and 2012 and the experience has only strengthened my desire to work to make IFT achieve its goals and be a strong resource for its members. My term as department chair at UMaine taught me the importance of open communication and conflict resolution which are skills that will also be important for an IFT leader. Technology should be a tool to help us achieve IFT goals, rather than dictating our progress. My experience as an on-line faculty and coordinator for my department's web-based graduate certificate program has provided me with insight on how technology can be used effectively not just to communicate, but to facilitate learning.
What defines a successful board and how would you contribute?
A successful board is one that stays current with trends in our field, listens to members, and keeps the mission of the organization alive in each decision that is made. Mutual respect for the opinions of other board members, volunteer leaders, and staff members can allow the board to effectively implement beneficial changes in IFT. My previous leadership experience enabled me to assist organizations in making changes such as getting the IFT journals listed in PubMed to increase citations for our journal articles by the medical community, completely revamping the AACC International annual meeting program, and increasing communication among members and leaders. IFT has tremendous depth in its current Board of Directors and I would be honored to be given the opportunity to work with them to strengthen IFT and the field of food science.
PhD, 1989, Nutrition and Food Sciences, Texas Woman's University
MS, 1982, Food Science and Nutrition, University of Massachusetts
AB, 1979, Biology, Harvard University
- IFT Executive Committee Member: September 2001-August 2004
- IFT Council Food Chemistry Division Representative: September 1995-August 1999
- IFT Nutrition Division Chair: September 1999-August 2000
- IFT Peer-Reviewed Communications Committee Chair: September 2006-August 2007
- IFT Research Committee Chair: September 1999 August-2000
- IFT Certified Food Scientist Implementation Group Member: July 2011-December 2012
- IFT Food Science Communicators Member: September 1994-August 2012
- Comprehensive Reviews In Food Science & Food Safety Editorial Board Member: September 2008-Present
- Food and Nutrition Science Alliance (FANSA) IFT Liaison: September 2000-August 2002
- AACC International Board of Directors Director: September 2004 September-2007
- AACC International Board of Directors President-elect, President, and Chair of the Board: September 2007-October 2010
- Headquarters Operations Committee (AACCI and APS) Chair September 2009-October 2010
- AACCI Membership Recruitment Committee Chair: September 1994-September 1996
- AACCI Nutrition Division Chair: September 1996-September 1997
- AACCI Nominations and Elections Committee Member: October 2010-September 2013
- AACCI Book Acquisitions Committee Chair: September 2003-September 2005
- Council for Agricultural Science & Technology Board of Directors Director: 2006-2008
- Phi Tau Sigma Honor Society President: 2000-2001
- Maine Nutrition Council Board of Directors Member: 2000-2003
- USDA NRICGP Post-harvest food safety grants Panel Manage:r 2002-2004
- University of Maine Graduate Certificate in Foods and Nutrition Program Coordinator: 2008-Present
- University of Maine Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition Department Chair: July 1995-June 1998
Professional and Community Recognition
The IFT Nutrition Division recognized my efforts to ensure safe and truthful labeling for foods and dietary supplements with a certificate for outstanding service in public policy in 1998. I received the Babcock- Hart Award from the Institute of Food Technologists and the International Life Sciences Institute North America in 2006 for my research on the effects of extrusion cooking and other processing techniques on nutrient retention, the development of an in vitro assay to evaluate the ability of foods or food ingredients to bind bile acids (and thus possibly reduce serum cholesterol in vivo), and for my efforts to clarify dietary supplement labeling. In 2007 I was named an IFT Fellow for my research, teaching and public service efforts. In 2008 I received two major awards from the University of Maine. The College of Natural Sciences, Forestry and Agriculture granted me the Outstanding Researcher Award and I also received the University's highest research award, the Presidential Research & Creative Achievement Award.