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"Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Zero. All engines running. We have a liftoff. Food science has always been here at NASA and integrated into the program. I think in the beginning we had tubes and cubes, and we had freeze-dried items, then we moved a little bit away and did more commercial items.” A dramatic image of a shuttle liftoff and this informative statement made by IFT member Michele Perchonok was the opening scene in IFT’s award-winning video, “A Day in the Life of a NASA Food Scientist.”
This video is the first in a series of videos that show the great promise of the food science and technology profession, and why it is an exceptionally rewarding career to pursue. The story follows Michele, Advanced Food Technology Manager at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and a few members of the food science team, Patricia Catauro and Maya Cooper, in Houston, Texas, as they conduct their work in the Space Food Systems Laboratory. Through interviews with these scientists, the video conveys how food science plays a critical role in ensuring that astronauts have safe, healthy, and nutritious foods during current missions to space and how their work will contribute to future efforts to reach Mars.
IFT produced this educational three-minute feature video as part of its “Day in the Life of a Food Scientist” series designed to educate students, teachers, the media, and the general public about the positive impact and rewards of the food science and technology profession. The video received a first place prize in the video category at the prestigious PR News Nonprofit Awards at the National Press Club in November. I hope that you will consider ways that you can use this outstanding video, available on ift.org, to share the excitement of a career in food science with students.
Today we safely feed more than seven billion people worldwide, and we plan to promote our “Day in the Life of a Food Scientist” series to help us get more people interested in the profession to help meet the needs of a growing global population estimated to expand to nine billion people by 2050.
So why is the time now to educate others about the rewards of our profession? The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture reported that U.S. universities will not graduate enough individuals with food and agriculture science degrees to meet job market demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that job growth for agricultural and food scientists should be greater than average, and predicts that the outlook for opportunities in these areas is good for the next decade. Although some food science departments in the U.S. are now seeing an increase in the number of food science majors, we must continue to actively recruit qualified students to our exciting major.
IFT’s Higher Education Review Board has identified 44 universities offering food science and technology programs that meet the IFT undergraduate education standards for degrees in food science. And we continue to reach out to the next generation of food scientists through the IFT Student Association and New Professionals Community.
Another partner in the effort to identify and educate successive generations of food science and technology professionals is Feeding Tomorrow, the Foundation of the Institute of Food Technologists. Feeding Tomorrow oversees, among other programs, the Richard L. Hall Scholarship in Flavor Science, the C. Ann Hollingsworth Student Leadership Scholarship, and the Summer Scholars Program.
In addition, more than 250 IFT Food Science Ambassadors serve as stewards for the profession by educating the young minds of elementary and secondary school students about careers in food science. I still believe that as stewards, mentors, and teachers of food science, we have a vital role to play in ensuring that science-based solutions to food-related issues continue to emerge and shape our future. I encourage you to mentor the food science leaders of tomorrow. Learn more about IFT’s “Day in the Life of a Food Scientist” program. Support the IFT scholarship program directly by donating to Feeding Tomorrow.
To meet IFT’s vision of a safe and abundant food supply for healthier people everywhere, we must find, encourage, and educate future generations of professionals dedicated to the science of food. This challenge is complex and requires the collective talent and efforts of everyone in academia, government, and industry. Each one of us can make a difference. And to quote our colleagues at NASA, “To be able to get up every day and go to something you love doing is really great. … Thank you very much for all you’ve done. We’re ready to go…liftoff!”
Robert B. Gravani,
IFT President, 2010–2011
Professor of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.