Kansas State University


Food Science Institute

Alumni Spotlight: Nigel Harper

By Morgan Wolfe


It’s not common to find a job after college that will allow you take your dog to work every day. Luckily for Nigel Harper, he found a job that does; in fact, his company encourages it!

Nigel Harper, a former K-State food science grad, returned to the university in September with his colleague, Melissa Weber, for the Fall Career Fair. Nigel represents his company, Mars Petcare, where his daily job involves wearing the hat of a product scientist, an engineer, a marketing associate and a quality scientist every day.

“I wouldn’t really say that there is an average work day at Mars Petcare,” Nigel said, “and that is what is exciting about it. I carry between two to five projects at a time, and they range from new innovations that we are launching to continuous improvement work that we do to make our products more efficiently.”  

Although Nigel loves his job, he admits it can be very challenging at times.

“When it comes to testing products that you are developing, you always want feedback from your consumers,” Nigel explains. “Well, our consumers “bark” and “purr” so getting verbal descriptions of the product are not straightforward.

Fortunately, Nigel and the crew at Mars Petcare work alongside many brilliant scientists that study the cues that animals can give, as well as what pet owners love about Mars products. Nigel even works beside a very close associate, his dog, Darby!

“Darby is actually a former associate at Mars Petcare because I adopted him from our Pet Feeding Center. It’s basically a four star, all-inclusive resort for dogs and cats,” Nigel laughed.

Though he’s submerged in a job that he loves, Nigel acknowledges his earlier years during school of making tough decisions about his future.

“I actually wanted to go to medical school, Nigel confessed. “My father is an optometrist, and medicine has always been a passion of mine. However, I decided not to go because I didn’t like where the careers in medicine are headed. I was looking for a field that could combine my love of nutrition, microbiology, biochemistry and physics; food science was the perfect fit.”

With big decisions like moving 11 hours away from home, committing to a master’s and doctorate degree and accepting his first job out of college, Nigel offers wise advice to current food science students.

“Build a strong network, and stay in contact with your fellow classmates,” Nigel remarks. “Also, take business classes in college to build your business acumen early. That is an area I have had to build on the job. And lastly, be comfortable with discomfort; that’s how you grow as a person. Push yourself past your comfort zone, no matter how scary that seems.”



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