Face-to-Face: Meet Robert Roberts
Ever wonder if anyone else is facing the same professional challenges as you? Or just looking to connect with some new people in your field? In IFT's Face-to-Face series, we will be introducing you to a different IFT member every month with a fun, insightful Q&A session.
This month meet...
Robert F. Roberts, Professor and Head, Dept. of Food Science, The Pennsylvania State University.
- How did you get your start in the food industry?
My father worked for the H.P. Hood milk company and my mother’s father was a grocer so I guess it’s fair to say I grew up around food and the food industry. My introduction to food science occurred in 1979 when as a high school student I landed a job working as a technician in a dairy products research laboratory at the University of Vermont. I remember thinking how cool it was to be doing research and “to know something” that no one else knew.
- What do you love about your job?
I have been a member of the faculty of Food Science at Penn State since 1991. I love a number of things about my job. The Students—who are excited to be beginning their careers; the intellectually stimulating and collaborative environment—that allows interesting integrative research to be conducted; the variety—my lab can be making yogurt in the morning and doing genomics in the afternoon; and my interactions with the industry via the Ice Cream Short Course and the Cultured Dairy Products Short Course.
- What is the biggest challenge that you face in your job?
Balance. There are so many important activities that compete for time. Balancing family, teaching, research, outreach, administration, etc. It is a tremendous challenge.
- What have you learned or been exposed to in the past 12 months that has helped you in your job?
In March of 2013, I accepted a position as Head of the Food Science Dept. at Penn State after serving as Interim Head beginning in May of 2012. Just as I began the position I was invited to participate in several leadership workshops that focused on the dialogue of engagement. One of the major concepts reinforced during these workshops was the value of listening. In my new role listening has proven to be an invaluable skill.
- How do you see the food industry evolving over the coming year?
Over the next year, I see a continued emphasis on implementation of the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act in food processing facilities of all sizes. I see work focusing on food solutions that will help to alleviate the growing issues surrounding obesity in the developed and the developing world and at the same time there will be work focused on food security for other parts of the world. I see continued work towards evidence-based understanding of mechanism, application, and delivery of bioactive components in “functional food products.” Finally, I see growing interest in understanding how genetics influences food choice.
- Fun Fact: What’s your favorite food?
Apple Cobbler Crunch Ice Cream from the Penn State Berkey Creamery.
If you are an IFT member and wish to be profiled, please contact Kelly Hensel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-604-0211.