Chris Downs headshot

Chris Downs

I’ve been involved in several professional organizations throughout my career. I joined IFT because it is important to me to engage with global science of food professionals who are passionate about working to address the food system’s challenges. For me, developing relationships with people from different disciplines, backgrounds, and world areas fosters new and exciting ways to think, collaborate, and solve problems.

Since I am only one of the thousands of members of this scientific community, I reached out to a few others to gain their perspectives. Tara McHugh from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Cheryl Rock from California State University, Long Beach, Behrouz Tilyayev from The Coca-Cola Company, and Jamie Valenti-Jordan from Catapult Commercialization Services are at different stages in their careers and bring unique sets of experiences to their roles, but they all share a passion for IFT and the importance of being part of this vibrant community.

Why is being an IFT member a priority for you?

Cheryl Rock: IFT has allowed me to bring visibility to my purpose as a science of food professional. It provides a forum for me and my students for professional development and to remain connected with colleagues and friends in the field. It also allows me to advocate for students and professionals who may be underrepresented and bring awareness to the needs of professionals in academia and women in STEM.

Behrouz Tilyayev: While I was a student, IFT solidified my passion for food and gave me crucial exposure to the food industry. Now as a new professional, IFT allows me to tap into the collective genius of its rich, diverse, global network of food professionals. It helps me stay competitive and well-informed of science of food trends and innovation. It is not a stretch to say that I owe a lot of my successes and growth opportunities to IFT.

"Developing relationships with people from different disciplines, backgrounds, and world areas fosters new and exciting ways to think, collaborate, and solve problems."

What is the most beneficial aspect of your IFT membership?

Tara McHugh: The people. The professional relationships and meaningful interactions IFT has provided were invaluable when I was a student and continue to be throughout my career.

Jamie Valenti-Jordan: The most beneficial aspect to me is the networking. The other members of this community are individually a wealth of information and support, but collectively, they make up a powerhouse of influence. When we remember that, we are a force for change.

How has the IFT community supported your professional growth?

Tara McHugh: The leadership training I received as a student and early in my career were foundational to my professional development. I learned and grew so much from my interactions with more senior scientists and professional members of IFT through various volunteer opportunities. Plus, from a scientific perspective, I gain so much from IFT’s publications and resources.

Jamie Valenti-Jordan: Early on, IFT gave me the opportunity to learn and explore my interest areas at a deeper level than my academic program could have been asked to support. The network I built while furthering my studies led to further professional responsibilities and colleagues. When I pivoted to consulting work, these connections proved valuable in helping me find clients, partners, and solutions.

Why do you recommend IFT to other science of food professionals?

Cheryl Rock: Because of my positive experiences as a student and now professor—there are so many benefits, especially for students. Taking advantage of scholarships, competitions, internships, and leadership opportunities is an excellent start to a career in the science of food.

Behrouz Tilyayev: I highly recommend joining and getting involved. As an IFT member, you will make meaningful connections, stay current with the science of food, and grow professionally. It is one of the most valuable investments you can make in yourself and your future in food.

Since 1939, IFT has been a consistent community for science of food professionals to collaborate, learn, and contribute. If you aren’t already a member, IFT has membership options designed to meet the unique needs of individuals and teams. I invite you to join us. I am certain you will be glad you did.

About the Author

Chris Downs, PhD, is IFT President, 2022–2023 ([email protected]).
Chris Downs headshot