Advice from former food science, technology student – AgriLife Today

December 15, 2022
The Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Food Science and Technology provides its graduates with the knowledge and skillset needed to pursue careers in the ever-growing food science industry.
Jennifer Vuia-Riser, Ph.D., earned her bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences in 2014 and master’s in food science and technology in 2016 from the legacy Department of Nutrition and Food Science.
The department split into the Department of Food Science and Technology and the Department of Nutrition in January 2020. She then obtained her doctorate in food science with a focus in food chemistry from the University of Tennessee.
Vuia-Riser is currently a food scientist for Cargill Protein. In her current role, she is on the Food Manufacturing Team, focusing on cooked extruded meat and pepperoni. Her cross-functional team encompasses specifications and labeling, food safety, regulatory, business, operations, technical services, maintenance, culinary, marketing, consumer insights, supply chain and engineering.
She said being in research and development allows her to work with all of these areas to innovate, develop and optimize food products. Below, Vuia-Riser shares her thoughts on the department and how it helped shape her career path.
I originally attended Texas A&M University as part of the On To Medicine program to go to the Texas A&M University School of Medicine. In my last year of undergrad, I took Food Bacteriology, taught by Dr. Matthew Taylor (professor, meat science, Department of Animal Science).
That one course changed my entire career path and life. From there, I decided to pursue a career in food science. I then heavily pursued a master’s in food science and technology to learn more about food science and to better prepare myself for a career in the food industry.
My favorite undergraduate food science class was Intro to Food Science with Dr. Peter Murano (associate professor, food science and technology). He has such a passion for food science that it made learning the technical details fun.
In graduate school, my favorite class was Industrial Processed Meat Operations with Dr. Wes Osburn (associate professor, meat science, Department of Animal Science). His course supported my knowledge in processed meats and solidified my passion for product development. I also enjoyed Chemistry of Foods with Dr. Steve Talcott (professor, food science and technology). He really pushed me to think critically and apply my knowledge in a way I wasn’t used to. His course made me better, and I still remember the discussion topics we had.
During my graduate studies at Texas A&M, I was involved with the Texas A&M Food Science Club, the Institute of Food Technologists, IFT, and the American Meat Science Association. I also eventually became heavily involved with the IFT Student Association.
All these societies helped me to develop soft skills and build my network, both personally and professionally.
The foundational knowledge I learned about food science, the food industry and the guidance from professors in the department helped me determine that product development was the career path I wanted to pursue.  
I like that no two days are the same. I am a person who does best in a dynamic setting and product development keeps me on my toes. 
The high level of soft skills that you need to perform your job on top of technical skills was a surprise to me. There is a level of emotional intelligence needed that is incredibly beneficial, but you really need to work on building those soft skills.
I know what it’s like to be hungry and not know if you’ll have a meal. I have made a commitment to my work and personal life to dedicate what I can with the time I am given to help ensure that others have food on their table. I love that I get to help create food that will feed someone.
I am in awe at the generosity and care that Cargill has toward its communities and giving back to those in need. It’s one of the many reasons I love working for Cargill. 
My family also has had a major influence on my life. We left Romania in the middle of the Romanian Revolution — literally within weeks of our communist leader being captured. We did not know anyone and did not know the language. We had to start over with nothing but the hope that this life would be better than what life had been to that point. The strength to leave everything you know, all of your family, going to the unknown with just hope is what has driven me to be who I am. 
Additionally, many faculty members both within the department and outside of it continue to serve as mentors for me: Drs. Matthew Taylor and Wes Osburn from Texas A&M, Drs. Qixin Zhong, Dwight Loveday and Vermont Dia from the University of Tennessee and Cody Kelly with NASA.
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Category:Campus & Community

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