“To Infinity and Beyond” – a Look at Purdue’s Food Science Dept’s recent Industrial Associate meeting

This week’s blog author is Brian E. Farkas, Ph.D.  He is a professor at Purdue University and head of the Department of Food Science where PacMoore is involved as an Industrial Associate member.

Brian Farkas Head of Purdue Food Science Department Presents at the Industrial Associates Meeting

Industrial Associates Program

As the head of Purdue University’s prestigious Department of Food Science, I am very honored to preside over our Industrial Associates Program.  The mission of this program is to foster a relationship between Purdue’s Department and the food industry, to facilitate the exchange of ideas between academia and industry, and to explore research collaboration and employment opportunities for our graduates.

This group meets twice each year on Purdue’s campus to engage with Food Science faculty, staff, and students, as well as other experts who can contribute to selected topics.  We have been thankful for the participation of PacMoore Products in this group for over 10 years, especially due to the proximity of their facilities and increasing impact on the food industry in technical food processing and food contract manufacturing.

Our most recent Industrial Associates group meeting was held on April 20-21.  The meeting was themed around the human microbiome. This is an exciting area and one in which our food science department will play a bigger role in the near future.  The meeting also allowed us to unveil our department’s new vision, mission and values statements, celebrate student achievements, introduce new faculty, describe facility upgrades, and celebrate the positive outcomes of our department’s recent 5 year review.  I believe the overall IA meeting may have been our best yet; at least since I started, and we’ve had some good ones.

Presentations: the human microbiome, microbiology in space, and more…

Let me give you a brief summary of the fascinating presentations we experienced:

  • Ricardo Reyes from Hearland presents at Purdue Food Science Industrial Associates MeetingHeartland Food Products Group is one of our newest members and they started things off by describing the amazing story behind the company’s origin and rapid growth.  Thank you for coming on board, Heartland!
  • Bruce Hamaker’s Purdue Lab Group took over next to lay the groundwork for the meeting theme and get us engaged in the human microbiome. “Manna from heaven” as a descriptor of dietary fiber in the role of human health continues to echo in my mind…..
  • Mark Ott from NASA stepped in next as a celebrity guest speaker to discuss his work with the International Space Station.  I can only describe this presentation as, well, “to infinity and beyond”!  He took the cool factor to a new level with the incorporation of microbiology in long-term space travel.
  • Mead Johnson’s presentation reminded us that of the many important roles the human microbiome plays, none may be more important than that of a newborn’s biota since “new human” beings are so fluid in all aspects of development.
  • Professor Arun Bhunia presented the department’s work in bioengineering, Listeria and the deductive science used to elucidate protective vs. non-protective effects and mechanisms of probiotics.  It was excellent and yet he presented it in a way even an engineer (me) could understand.
  • PacMoore was up next to share with us their exciting new addition of extrusion to their offering of dry blending, spray drying, andJon Baner Senior Technical Manager of Extrusion at PacMoore presents at Purdue Food Science Industrial Associates Meeting consumer packaging.  What an exciting time for them – I look forward to visiting their Mooresville facility to witness this continued growth in the arena of technical food processing.
  • Professor Cindy Nakatsu was the perfect “bookend” to Bruce’s opening, pulling our focus of talks together with her work on the relationship between diet and microbiome, notably in young women.  This work further underscored the importance of diet beyond just the intake of calcium or any single other nutrient.
  • Last but certainly not least, Assistant Professor Jen-Yi Huang provided a terrific overview of his planned work at Purdue in food life cycle assessment which cannot come at a better time in light of predicted future world food shortages.

As our Industrial Associates program continues to grow in size, Purdue’s Food Science Department is working hard to ensure that it also grows in capability; teaching cutting edge new methods and technologies that our member companies and industry have come to expect from Purdue Food Science students.

What a great time to be part of this program – I am looking forward to doing it again in October!

Brian E. Farkas, Ph.D.
Professor and Head of the Department of Food Science, Purdue University