Teaching food science to undergraduate and graduate students while maintaining an active research program in new food product innovation, food processing technology, and ingredient development has not kept Krishnan from volunteering with IFT. The professor of food science at South Dakota State University has served in every position in the Great Plains Section of IFT and considers the work he does to promote food science an integral part of his life.
“I have infused resources and enthusiasm wherever possible to encourage students to do something to create an awareness of the profession and career,” he says. “Shaping young minds to work in our discipline for the future ensures that we have a vibrant organization. We need all sorts of people with all sorts of talents, as we have a very large tent. We are planting the seeds in those fertile minds.”
As a student, Krishnan was shy and came to his first IFT volunteer opportunity at the request of a professor. “It is difficult to avoid eye contact when your professor says, ‘Do it!’" he says. "No one describes me as being shy now. Volunteering has its own rewards.”
Having arranged for students to attend IFT’s annual event, as well as serving on the Minnesota Section Scholarship Committee and facilitating student entries in national competitions, Krishnan knows firsthand the rewards of volunteering—as well as the value of paying it forward for the next generation.
“I have taken student teams to science fairs to teach elementary school-age children about food processing,” he says. “My food science students enjoy interacting with young children who are thrilled with hands-on learning experiences. Hand cranking the pasta machine and forming shapes of what used to be wheat flour brings amazement to the youngsters. They don’t separate work and play like we do.”
The time and effort put toward shaping young minds and finding opportunities for students to stretch themselves have reaped positive rewards for Krishnan. “I have received recognition by my peers who are also curious about what I do in my field,” he says. “This has provided national exposure to my research activity.” In addition, Krishnan has received front-page coverage in The Wall Street Journal for the unique research he does, which has helped him secure funding for high-impact food science research.
Krishnan and his fellow South Dakota State researchers are currently developing a near-infrared spectrometer (NIRS) calibration as a single analytical platform for determining the quality of oats, paving the way for the creation of new oat cultivars with increased health benefits. Krishnan is building upon earlier work he conducted with graduate student Devendra Paudel in which an NIRS calibration was used to quantify beta glucan content in oat samples. The method they developed is a faster, less costly way to quantify beta glucan.
“Being able to quantify the beta glucan, protein, and fat in oats groats (hull removed) that can then be planted to produce the next generation of oats is a powerful tool for both the food technologist and the plant breeder,” explains Krishnan.
Krishnan’s teaching, research, and volunteer activities bring him in contact with a wide variety of people, which makes each day interesting and different. “There are always exciting things that keep my mind alert,” he says. “Problem-solving is key to this profession, and one needs to be flexible and nimble in applying scientific solutions to the technical challenges.
“Most of all, I get to draw out the talents and ingenuity of my students, who are asked to jump headlong into the discipline instead of being spectators. This field is 50% creativity and 50% science and all about knowing how to communicate ideas. You have to like people."