Mary Helen Arthur

IFT Professional Member Martin Sancho-Madriz had been waiting for the “right” time to apply for the IFT/AAAS Congressional Science and Engineering Fellowship. This year was the right time. Late this month, he will head to Washington, D.C., to serve as the 2002–03 IFT Congressional Fellow.

Sancho-Madriz became interested in the Congressional fellowship when the inaugural fellowship was awarded to Cornell professor Joe Regenstein in 1996. So when Sancho-Madriz received tenure last fall at California State Polytechnic University—where he is Associate Professor of Food Science and Technology—he decided to apply. He was informed of his selection in March.

“The Congressional Science and Engineering Fellowship is an excellent opportunity for hands-on experience in food and agriculture policy,” he said. “The Fellowship will complement my academic background and prepare me to better analyze and discuss current policy issues, laws and regulations and the agencies that enforce them.”

Food policy and regulation are relevant to many of the eight courses Sancho-Madriz teaches at Cal Poly: food laws and regulations, food safety and current issues, principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), sensory evaluation, food chemistry, unit operations in food processing, food packaging, and graduate seminars. 

A superior candidate for the fellowship must demonstrate:
Exceptional achievement in food science, engineering, technology, or a related field.

Ability to interact effectively with non-scientists and individuals with different opinions.

Strong verbal and written communication skills, including the ability to explain scientific concepts intelligibly to non-scientists.

Flexibility in undertaking a variety of work.

Familiarity with current food policy issues.

With a diverse background in teaching, research, extension and consulting, Sancho-Madriz has amply demonstrated the required characteristics. After completing his undergraduate degree in food technology from the University of Costa Rica, he earned his M.S. degree from Cornell University, majoring in food science and technology with a concentration in food process engineering and a minor in agricultural engineering. Instead of proceeding directly into a Ph.D. program, however, he returned to the University of Costa Rica and worked for two years as an assistant professor in the Food Technology School. He also used this time to work as a consultant. 

To pursue his Ph.D., Sancho-Madriz again chose Cornell University, where he majored in food science and technology, concentrating in food process engineering with minors in vegetable crops and agricultural and biological engineering. The next step in his career was New Mexico State University, where he served as an assistant professor and food technology specialist. The extension aspects of this position provided the opportunity to hone his communication skills, as he developed a newsletter and other extension materials in English and Spanish, including a food safety education program for low-literacy employees and training videos about HACCP and food manufacturing. 

Since joining Cal Poly in 1997, Sancho-Madriz has received a HACCP implementation grant funded by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and, in cooperation with other universities, has served as a Spanish-language instructor in Better Process Control Schools.  

Martin Sancho-Madriz will represent IFT well in Washington, D.C., having joined IFT back in his student days and having served as a member of various committees for the past 12 years. In explaining why he applied for the fellowship, he said, “I have a strong desire to explore new career goals both as faculty and as a professional in my field. I am particularly interested in leadership and community service and in additional opportunities to work with government agencies, trade organizations, and food companies.” 

Each year, the new IFT Congressional Fellow begins his or her fellowship experience with a three-day introduction to national food and agriculture policy. Highlights include meetings with top officials at USDA and the Food and Drug Administration. In addition, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) provides an intensive two-week orientation on Legislative and Executive Branch operations. During the placement process, fellows interview for positions, choosing to work for a Congressman, a Congressional committee, or the Congressional Research Service.  

“I believe the Congressional Science and Engineering Fellowship will give me a new perspective into making the most of my talents,” Sancho-Madriz said. If that kind of perspective sounds appealing, additional information about the IFT/AAAS Congressional Science and Engineering Fellowship are available at In addition, former IFT Congressional Fellows are ready and willing to answer questions and share their experiences. Call IFT’s Washington office at 202-466-5980 for details.

IFT Science Information Manager

In This Article

  1. Food Policy