Food science research nourishes student experience
Conducting food science research means being hungry for answers.
University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences senior Jane Snelling feeds off being able to push into uncomfortable space to develop knowledge and experience from her hefty workload filled with undergraduate research, volunteer work, internships and extracurricular activities.
Her interest in food science is simple.
“With food science, you have the ability to touch somebody at least three times a day,” Snelling said. “Food brings people together. Everybody sits around the table and eats food together.”
Even with an already full plate, her ambition drives her to do more. Last fall, she presented a poster at the conference for the American Association of Cereal Chemists International in Savannah, Georgia, on her research about gluten-free tortilla production.
Originally from Twin Falls, Snelling began working as a lab assistant her freshman year for Brennan Smith, an assistant professor in the UI/WSU School of Food Science. She approached him about wanting to work on a research project. After some discussion, Smith said they settled on a project exploring the use of carob germ flour to replace gluten in tortillas.
Snelling, who graduates in May, said it’s a practice used in bread applications, so they applied the concept to produce gluten-free tortillas and presented the project in Georgia.
Working outside the classroom is just as important as working within, Smith said.
“In my opinion, there’s a fundamental disconnect between what happens in the real world and what happens in the classroom. Now, instructors can only do so much to fix that,” Smith said. “But to be able to go out and do these types of projects, do these internships, that’s where you get rid of that disconnect.”
For the past two summers Snelling interned at Glanbia, a global nutrition group with multiple large-scale facilities in southern Idaho.
The internship was no piece of cake — except that it literally was.
An egg shortage in the market due to a bird flu resulted in the opportunity for Snelling to aid Glanbia with their efforts to replace eggs as a component in cake recipes.
The replacement was composed of protein, water and fat.
“We used our whey protein, flax seed was our fat and we replaced it,” Snelling said. Functionally it worked the same, but it didn’t taste the same so I worked with flavor scientists to come up with flavor compounds to add to that mixture so companies could replace the eggs.”
A Full Plate
Snelling is an honors student and wants to build community through food. She’s also the co-president of the UI/WSU food science club, a member of the UI trap shooting team, an undergraduate researcher and community volunteer, among other things.
She started volunteering at the Moscow Mentor Program as a freshman when she noticed a disconnect between her time on campus and her time spent in the Moscow community.
“That always shocks me because at college you pretty much only see people that are the same age group as you, plus a few professors,” Snelling said. “Seeing young kids, they always have a way of putting things into perspective.”
With all of her different interests, Snelling said prioritizing helps her keep organized and on-task. She also has had to learn how to say no to too many opportunities.
“I would say I have been regularly uncomfortable, but I think that that’s important for growth,” Snelling said. “Generally, when I feel uncomfortable, I try to recognize that I’m uncomfortable and then why I’m uncomfortable. And then attack that.”
Article by Jake Smith, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences