Kansas State University


Food Science Institute

Category: Fall 2017

Row Hard or Row Home

By Morgan Wolfe


An early seven a.m. cardio workout before class is a normal everyday routine for four food science students. In fact, they also attend weight training every afternoon. Taylor Flowers, Cassidy Haufler, Samantha Samskey and Johari Snell are all teammates on the women’s rowing team who balance their busy schedules between school and sports and have a significant interest in food science.

This season the women have participated in two fall races that took place in October. At the Head of the Oklahoma Race in Oklahoma City, their boat placed 8th out of 24 boats, and at the Jayhawk Jamboree in Lawrence, their boat took 10th out of 22 boats. Their remaining season will resume in April after the winter months pass, but their training will continue regardless of the weather.

Two seniors on the team, Sam Samskey and Taylor Flowers both declared a food science major after taking Dr. PhebusIntroduction to Food Science class. Samskey changed from animal science, and Flowers was previously undeclared. From their underclassmen years to now, these two have been living a near identical schedule between rowing practice, class, labs and races; but both agree that their contribution to the rowing team has been well worth the hard work.

“I hold myself accountable more,” Samskey mentioned. “I’m more motivated.”

“Rowing is such a mental sport,” Flowers added.  “It’s made me mentally be able to focus and set tasks aside and know when to do things. Mind over matter, no matter what.”

As seniors, Flowers and Samskey now have to act responsibly as leaders to the younger girls on their team and show a good example.

“Rowing is definitely overwhelming at first,” Samskey said.

“60 girls come in, you’re all there and no one knows what they’re doing,” Flowers added. “We were scared. But you pick up fast. Coach will come in and say, ‘you need to improve, someone will take your spot, things like that. It’s very competitive.”

Flowers and Samskey have learned to take that ambitious attitude from sports and apply it to their academic career as well. Flowers and Samskey are diligent students who both are in the process of figuring out the next step after graduation.

“I like being in the lab and learning the science behind all the food,” Flowers explained.

“I like the dairy side of things. I’m not sure what I want to do with my degree after college right now, but I’m currently looking for an internship,” Samskey noted. “It’s hard to leave when all the professors are great. Dr. Schmidt is always so upbeat and excited to teach everyday.”

“Yes, all the professors are great,” Flowers added. “They know what they’re talking about and they’re all very passionate. They really care about what they teach.”

The Food Science Institute is grateful for all of the girls’ hard work and contribution throughout their time at K-State. The rowing women are strongly committed to the success of their athletic and academic careers, and we wish them the best in their futures!


Slam Your Final Exam

Morgan Wolfe


Well… there’s no getting around it; the time of year that we’ve all been dreading this semester has quickly approached us – finals. For most students, final exam week is a stressful period that creeps up way too fast leaving little to no time for preparation or rest. However, there are some tricks that can help alleviate some stress and anxiety.

Get Some Rest

A good night’s sleep will help you retain information longer and do well on your exams. Studies show that rapid-eye movement or REM sleep aids memory and thought process. Remember to take naps too! A twenty-minute power nap can help boost your alertness and physical stamina.

Change up Your Study Spot 

Instead of studying in the same room over and over again, adventure to a new spot around town with a different atmosphere. A study referenced by the New York Times, found that alternating study spots improves retention.

Manhattan has a lot of great coffee shops that make it easy unpack your books, sip some caffeine and get to work. Some spots include: Sparrow Specialty Coffee, Radinas Coffeehouse and Roastery, Arrow Coffee Co, Bluestem Bistro and Paramour Coffee.

If you’re looking for some on-campus spots, Hale Library is providing quite the hook-up with their freebie events as follows:

CAFFEINE FIX: Mon. – Weds., Dec. 11-13, 6 – 8 p.m. 2nd and 4th floors. Free Einstein’s Bros. coffee and bagels, Jimmy John’s sandwiches, and hot chocolate from the Union Program Council while supplies last.

ALL WEEK: RANDOM ACTS OF SNACKS sponsored by K-State Libraries, Goodcents Deli Fresh Subs and Varsity Donuts!

DE-STRESS STATION: Coloring pages and pencils, Sudoku, word searches, and more located near Library Help!

Divide it Up

Instead of spending hours cramming for your exams, divide your time up and give yourself a break. Study in 20-50 minute increments with 5-10 minute breaks in between. Managing your time will also help relieve stress and anxiety.

Move It!

Take a break and get some exercise. Research at Columbia University found that physical activity promotes neurogenesis (creation of new brain cells) and overall increases brain performance. It’s also a great way to wake you up when you feel tired from studying too long. The K-State Rec Center offers a diverse range of workout opportunities for people of all interests. Manhattan has also recently adopted a new yoga center in Aggieville called, Orange Sky Yoga, giving students the chance to come relax and de-stress in any of their numerous classes. 



Student Spotlight: Rene Perla

By Morgan Wolfe


Whether he’s running for the K-State track team or studying at Call Hall as a food science student, Rene Perla truly works hard at everything he does. As a K-State athlete, Rene currently dedicates 20 hours of his week to track practice and soon will be dedicating even more time when the spring season arrives and traveling for the sport begins. Although he works around a busy schedule, Rene finds gratitude for the challenges he faces along the way.

“Push yourself as much as you can,” Rene said. “That’s what I like to live by. I don’t like failure, but I know that sometimes I need it in order to learn.”

This motto definitely influenced decisions in Rene’s life prior to coming to K-State.

“I grew up in Central America,” Rene said. “My parents have a water bottle business, and they always pushed my sisters and I to go after our dreams and choose good industries to work in when we got older. I studied food science back home for a year until I realized that there were schools with better food science programs for me. So I came to Kansas State University.”

Now a junior in food science, Rene is trying to figure out what part of food science he likes best.

“I’m interested in food quality and safety, microbiology too,” Rene mentioned.

Although he hasn’t determined a concentration, Rene still plans to attend graduate school in the future.

“I’m thinking either Purdue or Penn State. Maybe even K-State. Dr. Getty has been a great help in making decisions and giving advice as to where to go, what to do and what big role I want to pursue in a career path.”

Rene’s dedication to learning and sports certainly leaves an impression on those around him.

“I have been impressed with his interest in food science and his efforts to succeed in the class and on the track field,” Dr. Kelly Getty comments. “He’s always looking for new opportunities within food science. I look forward to watching him progress and make an impact in the food industry and his community.”

Keep an eye out for Rene this upcoming spring as he competes in the 400 meter hurdles!


Science Communication Week at K-State

By Morgan Wolfe


This week is the first ever Science Communication Week at K-State, and a whole line up of events will be in action throughout the week for students to attend and participate in. The schedule includes a research colloquium, a presentation with National Geographic photographer, Jim Richardson, a library scholarship expo, a Science Café presentation with The Scientific Research Society’s Michael Veenan and a USDA-ARS Center for Grain and Animal Health Research Open House.

The week is centered around The Kansas Science Communication Initiative or KSCI. This action seeks to engage communities to understand, promote and actively participate in science and research. One major role in achieving this goal is to simply build the bridge between the arts and science. This partnership allows scientists and communicators to work collaboratively on ways to explain the work conducted by researchers and scientists to different audiences. Additionally, it will work to connect researchers with K-12 teachers, informal education institutions, and other citizen groups to engage publics in new scientific studies and opportunities. The KSCI also hopes to produce effective content for mass communication channels.

As a large contributor to science and research at K-State, the Food Science Institute will be participating this week and invites food science students to join in on some of these events. Dr. Valentina Trinetta, Assistant Professor will be presenting about food microbiology art at the library scholarship expo. She, along with four students, Gabriela Magossi, Chloe Shearon, Bethany Herl and Caroline Peters will explain how bacteria, yeasts, molds and other microbes are associated with foods and food processing.

“I think that a lot of times scientists get trapped in their labs with formulas and reactions,” Dr. Trinetta said. “Sharing information with the public is therefore, slow and difficult. Integrating scientific results with communication is fundamental to give a stronger understanding of the current research and moreover, increase science relevance in society.”

The library scholarship expo will be held at Hale Library on Tuesday, Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Come visit with Dr. Trinetta as well as tons of other science leaders to learn what research and practices are being conducted.



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.”



Alumni Spotlight: Melissa Weber

By Morgan Wolfe


Bringing ideas to life is what motivates Melissa Weber everyday in her job at Mars Petcare. Melissa lives with a passion for taking consumer insights and developing solutions to unmet consumer needs. Mars Petcare allows her to practice this passion daily and even pushes her to think more creatively

Although she is happy in her career and current pursuits, Melissa had to push herself to get where she is. Her hard work began here at K-State after she finished her undergrad at The University of Tennessee Martin.

“I grew up with a fascination for Agriculture and knew that I wanted to pursue a career in an agriculture field,” Melissa explained.  “I looked into Agricultural Communication, but quickly realized that I had a strong passion for science that was not met in the communications field. My undergraduate advisor recommended graduate study in meat science and pointed me to K-State.”

With minimal experience in food science, Melissa followed this recommendation and left her lifelong home in Tennessee for the great Midwest.

“I quickly grew to the love the field with the complexity that exists in live animal production, conversion of muscle to meat and the development of high quality meat products that are consumer relevant,” Melissa said. She faced some challenges throughout the program too though.

“I had limited experience in meat science and had a lot of catching up to do. I had to study hard, listen and learn from my fellow graduate students and immerse myself in the meat lab to become ‘fluent’ in meat science,” Melissa reflected. “I also learned that research doesn’t always go as planned.”

During her Ph.D. research, a tornado hit Weber Hall, shutting down the meat lab entirely. Melissa had to get creative.

“Thankfully we had industry partners who allowed us to use their facilities to insure my research who be completed. I learned the difference between finding solutions and just identifying problems. There will always be challenges and people who can find ways around those challenges will stand out,” Melissa noted.

This skill has helped Melissa greatly in her career. In a face-paced work industry, one of Melissa’s first standalone projects at Mars Petcare was to bring a new brand to life in just six months.

“An average day is spent working on projects in various stages (some are at ideation, some are in testing and some are being launched) and collaborating with marketing, plants and peers to scope projects and troubleshoot issues,” Melissa explained. “No day is ever the same, so I never get bored!”

Melissa loves her job at Mars Petcare because the family-owned business truly stands behind its five principles to create an environment focused on quality, efficiency, mutuality, responsibility and freedom.

“It’s challenging,” Melissa mentioned. “We have two consumers: pets and pet parents. We have to create complete and balanced meals, and we have to lower tier raw materials to create high quality, highly regulated products. I also get to bring my dog to work!.”


Alumni Spotlight: Mayla Kritski Baez

By Morgan Wolfe


From Pastry Chef to Food Scientist, Mayla Kritski Baez has had a variety of experiences in the food industry. Upon recently graduating in spring 2017 with a bachelors degree in food science, Mayla has proceeded to fulfill the rest of her career dreams. Growing up in Brazil with a family that cherished good food, Mayla had always been interested in food her whole life and knew that working in the food industry would be a passion of hers.

“Our family reunions were always held at the kitchen table around a good cup of coffee and fresh baked pastries,” Mayla said.” She knew food was something she was passionate about and wanted to continue learning about.

“I graduated from Johnson County Community College with an associates degree in culinary arts, a Pastry and Baking and a Sous Chef Certification from the

American Culinary Federation. I was also part of the JCCC Culinary Team, Mayla Said.”

Mayla worked for her certification as a pastry chef for 715 Restaurant in Lawrence, KS and as a Catering Sous Chef for JCCC in Overland Park, KS.

“I worked for almost three years while finishing my associates degree,” Mayla added. “We were required to have 6,000 hours of kitchen experience in order to be able to take the practical test for the Sous Chef Certification. The American Culinary Federation has a very strict policy regarding their certifications.”

Her hard work paid off though. Mayla now has a position as a food scientist for JBS Beef in Souderton, Pennsylvania, and truly enjoys everything she does.

“Working for JBS is rewarding and very exciting,” Mayla said. “An average day at work for me starts by attending my first meeting at 5:10 a.m. to see what the numbers are for the day. We check the exports orders, the cattle heads that will need to be fabricated; we talk about packaging costs, food safety topics, usually carrying out new implementations for the front and back pack areas, etc. After that, I usually go to the production floor for four and a half hours to check on everybody and make sure everything is in place to start production. I stay in the plant usually from 4:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. until the production department is done. That usually depends on the number of cattle heads. It could range from 1,500 or 2,200 heads per day; every day is different.”

The long days seem to be worth it. Mayla hopes as a food scientist to bring products to the consumer table that can reach proliferation; even items in the beef industry that are on the cusp of becoming a trend.

“Going to culinary school and earning a bachelors in food science helped me to understand the science behind food, how to play with flavors, colors, cooking techniques, food safety and how great is to create new food products,” Mayla explained. “I hope K-State food science students really take advantage of all the opportunity around them. Ask questions, talk with your professor(s), participate in competitions and try to find a mentor to discuss your career goals.”

Last June, Mayla and her team won 2nd place in the 2017 National Dairy Council New Product Competition. Mayla worked alongside two other colleagues, Conrad Kabus(undergraduate, senior in food science) and Karthik Sajith (M.S. graduate student). Their challenge was to develop a dairy beverage that will be the drink of choice for 15-25 year old consumers. The team responded by creating Mate Au Lait Protein Plus. The overall product development was no easy task, but the end result was well worth the hard work.  Mayla encourages all students to challenge themselves and participate in as much as possible.

When asked the one thing she would have done differently at K-State if she could go back, Mayla laughed, “I would have had more Call Hall ice creams.”

Food Science Alum Returns to Interview Students


By Morgan Wolfe



Returning to her old stomping grounds, Rachel Pearson, a 2015 K-State graduate traveled back to Manhattan last week in hunt to find the best-fitting students for the posterity of her represented company, Land O’ Lakes.

Rachel began her college career in the pre-veterinary program. It wasn’t until she took Dr. Phebus’ Introduction to Food Science class that she noticed a shift in her attention. “I found food science to be a very engaging subject for me,” said Rachel.

“Dr. Phebus’ intro class definitely peaked my interest in food science for sure. I had a follow-up meeting with him shortly after and realized his passion for food science. He quickly revealed the impact and opportunities that food science has,

so I started weighing the factors, advantages and disadvantages.  Then I decided that I would have a lot more going for me if I switched over to food science.”

Rachel has been working for Land O’ Lakes for about three years. She first worked for the company during her junior year where they shipped her off to Orland, California for a summer internship.

“I remember one of the first things they asked me during my initial interview was, ‘Are you willing to relocate,'” Rachel mentioned. “And I said, ‘I want to get out of Kansas. I want to see what the world has to offer.” She enjoyed her internship so much that the following summer she accepted another intern position with Land O’ Lakes; this time in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Rachel now works at the Minnesota Land O’ Lakes branch where she just started her second year in a program called TAP (training).

“It’s a broad training course where you get exposure to the plant. It includes anything from sourcing to environmental health and safety to quality as well as production,” Rachel explained. “You learn how each part of the process plays a role in making the final product.”

Rachel started her first year of the program down in Texas doing feed. Although she loved it, she realized she loved dairy more. She is currently back in R&D butter and spreads team in Minnesota until she finishes training and is relocated to another plant.

“At Land O’ Lakes, you really make your own career,” Rachel stated. “Land O’ Lakes is very supportive if you have an interest. Go for it. That’s why I enjoy coming back to K-State to interview students.

I love talking about Land O’ Lakes and the opportunities within the company and how it plays a part in making the world a better place.”

Rachel interviewed food science students here in Manhattan for two days. She and her colleague, Daniel Coen (KSU Food Science Alumni), really wanted to find those special students whom they know would do well at Land O’ Lakes.

“We want students to feel comfortable during the interview process. It’s more of a get-to-know you process on both sides,” Rachel noted.

“We are looking for someone who has those true values, takes integrity very seriously and is not afraid to get their hands dirty and get the job done. At the same time, we also look for people who really value the impact that Land O’ Lakes has in the world and people who are passionate about making a difference.”



Tips & Tricks for the Best Career Fair Interview

By Morgan Wolfe


The K-State Career Fair is scheduled for September 19-21, 2017 at Bramlage Coliseum from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and we are so excited for our K-State food science students to show the real world what they are made of! If you haven’t registered, please do so before September 18 by visiting the Career Center in the Berney Family Welcome Center. We know all of you will do extremely well; but just as a reminder, here are a few job interview tips to help you stand out. Good luck students!

Study Up

Before you interview, research the company’s earnings calls, quarterly reports and blog posts. Bring up one of their current projects in your interview to show that you really did your homework and know what they are working on. Express your interest and concern in what they do so that they can see you would be an excellent attribute to their company.

First Impressions are Everything

Employers are busy. Show them that spending their time on you is an investment. Arrive early. Be polite. Extend warm greetings to everyone you meet from the company. Employers want to see that you are intentional and treat others with kindness. Make a strong first impression by dressing appropriately, demonstrating professional body language and speaking with enthusiasm, confidence and positivity.

Craft your Story

Instead of just reading down your resume, think of five things you really want to communicate to the interviewer. What do you want them to remember about you? What makes you stand out? Talk about your past jobs that are most relevant to position you are interviewing for.

Walk the Walk

Have a portfolio already put together with some of your best work samples or project highlights inside. This collection can be physical or digital. Show the employer that you haven’t just recited material that you learned in class, but instead that you have practiced and experienced it firsthand and are ready to use your skills to benefit the company.

Always Thank the Interviewer

Before you interview, have a thank you card already addressed and ready to go in your bag or notebook. After your interview, take five minutes to sit down elsewhere and write a thank you note. Include a few points you talked about in your interview to show the employer that you didn’t pre-write one. Drop it in the mail. Your letter should get to them two or three days after the interview – perfect time to remind them of you and get them thinking about that next point of contact.

Student Spotlight: Carla Schwan

By Morgan Wolfe



After living in Brazil for 22 years, Carla Schwan decided to step out of her comfort zone and step into the United States. Upon finishing two years of her undergraduate degree in Brazil, Carla knew she needed to aim high in order to fulfill the rest of her dreams. “I applied for a program called “Science Without Borders,” said Carla. “It was a government program that gave students the financial opportunity to further their education globally for a year. It was highly selective. The entire process took three months.”

When she received the news that she had been selected, Carla experienced a variety of emotions. “I was very excited to come to Kansas, but also so scared,” Carla noted. “I had only learned English for five months in Brazil. I wasn’t sure how I was going to communicate with people!”

She adjusted quickly though. “I learned most of my English here in the labs at K-State. After that, I used sticky notes for everything. I put one on the wall that said wall, I put one of the mirror that said mirror, I put one on the chair that said chair. Eventually, I got it.”

Carla completed her junior year at K-State in food science then returned to Brazil to finish the rest of her bachelor’s degree in food science and technology at the Federal University of Santa Maria. She had no idea she would return to Kansas until Dr. Randy Phebus called her one day. “ He asked if I wanted to come back for my master’s degree for the next two years,” Carla mentioned. “So of course, I did.”

Carla focused on antimicrobial interventions to minimize the risk of Escherichia coli in beef and did most of her master’s research in the Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI) and at the Food Safety and Defense Laboratory at K-State working under Dr. Phebu’s supervision. She has returned to K-State to continue working on her PhD in Food Science. She is currently researching Shiga toxin-producing E. coli as part of a 25 million dollar STEC CAP USDA project. Carla works under Dr. Phebus as he is a key investigator in the project. The rest of her PhD research will be under Dr. Jessie Vipham, Assistant Professor in animal science and industry at K-State. “Dr. Vipham has given me the opportunity to work with her in Ethiopia. One of the goals of this project is to develop a basic food safety training program that focuses on meat safety. Additionally, I’ll be collaborating in the development of a food safety master’s program in Ethiopia.”

Although Carla is very excited to study abroad yet again, she is equally thrilled to soak in another year back at K-State. “I love the environment here,” said Carla. “I’ve been to many universities in the United States and K-State is by far the most welcoming. There is an overwhelming sense of help and generosity here; it really helped me when I first got here and didn’t know English very well.”

We are very excited to welcome Carla back for the third time, and we look forward to all the brilliant things she will do this year in her research as well as next year while she works in Ethiopia.

KC-IFT in the Little Apple

By Morgan Wolfe



On Friday, August 25 our students were given the opportunity to dip their toes into the vast waters of the food science industry when the Kansas City Section Institute of Food Technologists (KC-IFT) hosted a networking and scholarship event here in Manhattan, KS..

As one of 53 regional sections of the IFT organization, KC-IFT serves as a major source for food industry opportunities. With over 17,000 members, KC-IFT represents all areas of work in the food industry such as manufacturing, retail/consumer goods, research and product development, process engineering and more. The organization strives to link industry professionals with academic personnel in order to stimulate growth and development in food technology.

Students, faculty and IFT members were invited to attend a presentation and tour by the American Institute of Baking International (AIB) as well to a scholarship awards dinner and social networking event at the K-State Alumni Center. Industry guests included businesses like Infor, Cereal Ingredients, Kerry Ingredients, Ardent Mills, Richardson Milling, Bunting Magnetics as well as numerous other local companies. Students were given the opportunity to visit with the members of these companies over a nice meal catered by Coco Bolos.

Following dinner, KC-IFT president, Carmelo Marafioti announced the undergraduate and graduate student scholarship recipients. A big congratulation goes out to Janelle Debus and Karthik Pandalaneni. Janelle is a junior studying nutrition and kinesiology. She hopes to attend physical therapy school after she graduates, but is still in the process of finding a school that is suitable for her. Karthik is a PhD student in food science. He has attended K-State for three and a half years and is currently researching dairy processing; his major professor is Dr. Amamcharla. Both students demonstrated their merit with impressive academic achievements and outstanding personal resumes. We are eager to see who will win this scholarship again next year.

“We hope to host more KC-IFT events in the future,” said Marafioti. KC-IFT recently welcomed Dr. Sara Gragg, assistant professor in food science as the new president of the organization. Dr. Gragg’s experience in the food industry makes her an ideal fit for the position; she has traveled extensively presenting on the topic of food safety and studying processes of food safety and microbiology, and she currently works in the Animal Health Corridor at K-State Olathe campus.

We look forward to the next KC-IFT function and can’t wait to hear what Dr. Gragg has in store for the organization. The next KC-IFT meeting is likely to be held in spring 2018.