Saturday, October 25, 2014

Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit - Anaheim 2014

       On June 6th, I received an email from the department listserv with an opportunity to apply for  a "scholarship opportunity through the Postharvest Technology Center to be awarded funds to attend the Produce Marketing Association meeting in Anaheim in October" with a deadline of June 27. My application was swiftly submitted and I was notified in the middle of July that I had been selected as a scholarship recipient! 

      The scholarship included round trip transportation to the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) conference, full registration to the Fresh Summit expo, and subsidized lodging and meals. 5 scholarship students and 1 guardian drove a van for the long drive down I-5, through the central valley and past Harris Ranch. I was the only student to represent Food Science among the Plant Science and Sustainable Agriculture students, which led to many interesting conversations about the future of the industry. The Anaheim Convention Center is so very close to Disneyland and California adventure, which made the area pretty lively and full of pedestrian/car traffic. The event itself was incredible --large, official, colorful, and busy. Guests with ribboned name tags, briefcases, and firm handshakes crossed my path several times as I walked through the lobby outside the exposition. 

Kenneth L. from my hometown was also a 2014 scholarship recipient!
      The exposition, "Fresh Summit", was enormous. You couldn't see any of the enclosing walls because of the curvature of the Earth's surface! There were booths and small "arenas" for produce company's exhibits and diverse samples of every kind as far as the eye could see. One of my favorite booths was that of Bolthouse Farm because I enthusiastically support a lot of their healthy products directed towards kids. I am also a big fan of their snack carrot product, formerly titled "Shakedowns". I talked with some associates for a while and got to sample the product. It was so exciting and valuable for me to talk directly with an employee about the produce industry and specific marketing strategies.

     Additionally, the conference had some important activities for students from UC Davis, CSU Fresno, and Cal Poly through the presentation of the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent. FIT intends to reach out to students and fill the demand of new professionals and leaders for the produce industry. During the presentations, I learned a lot about the extremely dynamic inner workings of the industry, from cultivation, distribution, marketing, and weather impacts. I would definitely recommend students interested in the produce industry to become a member of the Produce Marketing Association and let your career grow!

Casually excited young scholar, E. Dufort
      Scholarship recipients also had the opportunity to present research relevant to the industry during the UC Davis Reception held at the Marriot. I had the pleasure of presenting data that I helped gather for Cara A.'s Master's thesis on the topic of heat and ripening of California pistachios (Pistachia vera). The reception was an excellent networking opportunity and all of the UC Davis alumni were extremely supportive of the students -- GO AGS! 
     Dean Helene Dillard of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences was also present and articulated growing support for students gaining real-world experience well before graduating from UC Davis. I second that motion!

       I'd like to thank the Postharvest Technology Center at UC Davis, specifically Beth M., Penny S., Pam D., and the generous sponsors for providing me with this extremely valuable and educational opportunity. I learned a lot, made useful connections, and got inspired for my future in the food industry. Here are some more photos from my experience at the Fresh Summit. Enjoy!

Company displays were decorated very creatively and varied
greatly in size-- from multi-arena to 2-story booths!

Kenneth and I having a blast and eating healthily!

Concluding Remarks for Summer 2014

       After the pilot plant run at Oscar Mayer in Madison, I continued my internship with the normal tests for quality on the final hot dogs, and worked hard to compile and interpret data for my final presentation. There were a lot of graphs, tables, and explanations of materials and methods to form a conclusion for a recommendation for the Oscar Mayer business unit. My final presentation was Monday, Sept. 15 and I worked with Scott O. to cater a luncheon to accompany my powerpoint; we figured that more people would attend if there was food to enjoy! We served beef and turkey hot dogs from the company store, Mom's Baked Beans with a Roof of Bacon, Sriracha coleslaw, and potato salad -- YUM! Upon walking in and smelling the food, I heard someone say "This is already the best intern presentation, and she hasn't even started!" :)

      The presentation was a powerpoint with about 30 slides, comprised of intern background, additional projects at Kraft, summer adventures, materials and methods, results, discussion, business impact, and acknowledgement. The entire lunch and presentation took less than 30 minutes! It was a huge success following a long culmination of hard work and dedication.

Speaking of hard work and dedication, I had some help
deconstructing my bike so that I could ship it to California

       After the presentation, I worked on a technical report for a summary of experiment results and trained a newly hired employee, who would be assuming my work responsibilities upon my departure. I also scrambled to get rid of the mass of food in my refrigerator by hosting a luncheon for closer mentors and coworkers from my department. I cooked them a stuffed bell pepper lunch in some of the kitchen ovens --everyone loved them! I also got to spend more time with my sponsors, Dr. Legan and Dr. Leland, and Chad G. before leaving.

SURPRISE!! My 22nd Birthday in the Bat Cave
"Good friends, good love, good life"

       I was also very eager to see the city a few more times before leaving and took a couple of photos from my concluding visits.

The L train station in the Loop
Three Floyds Brewery & Restaurant - Munster, Indiana

The Green Mill cocktail lounge for swing dancing
Landmark for mob history with Al Capone!

Overall, I have been the most fortunate person to have had this unforgettable and extremely valuable experience during my time spent in Glenview, IL as a Kraft Foods R&D intern. I look forward to my return for another great internship in May, after I finish my undergraduate career in March. I love living in the Midwest, exploring, and I value gaining experience in the food industry. I will continue to use this blog as an educational conduit for the underclassmen in the UC Davis Food Science Department and to share more experiences from events in different fields of the industry.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Boiler UP!

        During the final weeks of my internship, I decided to squeeze in ONE more graduate school visit -- this time to West Lafayette, Indiana to Purdue University. I was able to take Amtrak from Chicago Union Station directly to West Lafayette and spend Friday night to Tuesday morning at Purdue, graciously hosted by 2 fellow interns that I met at Kraft. Behold the benefits of networking!

Ross-Ade Stadium at Purdue University

        My first experience as a potential Boilermaker was attending the football game and tailgate for Purdue vs. Central Michigan in the giant football stadium. The cheers and general fan behavior reminded me a lot of football games at Aggie Stadium. I even approached the trombone section of the Purdue "All-American" Marching Band to ask them questions to find similarities to the Cal Aggie Marching Band-uh.

Of course I toured the pilot plant!
       Earlier in the week, I contacted the Food Science Graduate Program Coordinator, Mitzi Barnett, and she was able to quickly and skillfully create a schedule for an official visit. The schedule included 30 minute meet and greets with 6 different professors of whom I expressed interest. I also received a tour of the department and went to lunch with some current graduate students! I met with Dr. Keener, Farkas, San Martin-Gonzalez, Liceaga, Yao, and Feruzzi to introduce myself, discuss their research, and ask about their future projects. I found a couple advisors with whom I really enjoyed conversing and I have been keeping in contact with them. The graduate students also gave me great advice for choosing an advisor, program, and university; the hierarchy of importance is the dynamic with advisor, the research, then the location/university. It is most critical for success to have an understanding with and to get along well with your professor so that your research project is completed on time. Additionally, I was taken on several tours of the department, into labs, classrooms, lounges, kitchens, and the pilot plant. What a great facility!

A new method of frying: Radiant Frying
      Besides experimenting with the radiant fryer with Dr. Keener and his graduate student, one of the coolest parts of my trip to West Lafayette was having dinner at Dr. Farkas' house (Department Head of Food Science). He has recently been appointed after Dr. Nielsen retired and has great rapport with the students. He invited the new freshmen and some seniors to have a catered dinner at his beautiful home to introduce himself and encourage the seniors to bestow advice to the underclassmen. It was a really fun dinner and I even got to give advice and speak about the program at UC Davis. I welcomed any questions about the graduate program and told the international students about California --it was awesome to be a representative to UC Davis Food Science!

     I really, truly, totally enjoyed my visit to Purdue University and West Lafayette. The people are nice,  the department is strong, the potential MS research programs are interesting, there is plenty of funding, and the Midwest is beautiful!! I would welcome the opportunity to attend this school for my graduate studies. Additionally, an interesting comparison was made: If West Lafayette : Davis, Indianapolis : Sacramento, and Chicago : San Francisco. I think that these parallels really stimulate Purdue as a choice for my future!! Time will tell, and a few other grad school visits. 

                              Boiler UP!

The Amtrak station sunrise

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Work Hard, Play Hard

     The past few weeks working at Kraft have certainly ramped up in intensity as I compile my data, make conclusions, write a Tech Report, and prepare a presentation for the entire Central Research Department of the Glenview Tech Center. However, I have also continued to have fun adventures with my UCD friends, and some new ones along the way!! Here are some photos and descriptions of how I've been spending my time outside of work, in this wonderful state (and outside of Illinois) !

White Sox Game! (They lost, but the company was winning)
       During the work week, I got a text from another UC Davis friend who had been driving her Mini Cooper as part of the Mini Takes the States event. Alex's epic road trip with hundreds of other Mini drivers had a stop in Chicago for their evening event, and she invited me to a Sox game! The road trip started in San Francisco, and they make a stop in 18 different states and 15 different cities from July 26-August 9, 2014. I was so lucky to get to meet up with her after work and meet some of her fellow Mini Cooper enthusiast friends, who were all English! Never a dull moment here in Chicagoland!

During the weekends, I always like to plan fun activities with Evan and Aaron (UCD Students) to explore and get the most out of our diminishing time left in Chicago. Here are some photos from one of our weekend marathon adventures in this wonderful and exciting city:

Oak Street Beach
Classic Lake Michigan beach
just a short walk from the L, excellent views of city and lake

Aaron, Evan, and I after the Chicago Hot Dog Fest!

Taiko Drum performance at the Ginza Festival!

Valoi's, a breakfast place in Hyde Park ~cafeteria-style
Obama's favorite breakfast place in Chicago

The Art Institute
featuring the Magritte Exhibit
infamous from Ferris Bueller's Day Off
A third of Marc Chagall's America Windows @the Art Institute

The following weekend, a dear friend from Study Abroad 2012 in Wuxi, China came to visit! We spent time with Evan and Aaron, and checked more items off of our bucket lists together.

The gang all together, leaving the Chicago Air and Water Show!
The show was cancelled due to fog, but that didn't tarnish our spirits!

On a brewery tour at Revolution Brewing

A little bit of dancing with some children at Navy Pier
with a Red Hot Chili Pepper cover band at the LandShark Beer Garden
The Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier

During the weekend of my Birthday, I also got to see the off-limits portions of the Field Museum, where scientists are currently doing biological research. My friend, Aaron, has been conducting research on dinosaur teeth and led me on a tour of the third floor, where they house the fossils. I even ran into Emily Graslie, from the Brain Scoop, which is an educational YouTube series, based out of the Field Museum! Here are some more photos of my adventures:

Sausage Fest!
So many fests here in the Midwest!
A quick photo of part of the Chicago Botanic Garden
It was a great bike ride, and bikers get free admission!
What a beautiful place, I hope I can go again before my time is up.

I also ran the Women's Magnificent Mile 5K!
The race started at 7:30AM, and took place on a long
stretch of the historic shopping street: Michigan Avenue.
I had a good time, despite having to take the train at 5:30AM!!

Runners lined up in their corrals, ready to run!
       As you can see, I have been a busy bee with my remaining time here in Chicagoland! I hope you enjoy these updates, however late they may be! I have less than 1 week left and I will be sad to leave. However, this summer has refreshed my enthusiasm for an active and busy lifestyle and I am more than ready to tackle my final year at UC Davis!!

Internship at Kraft: August Update

       For most of August, my work days have consisted of making hot dogs and studying them, each with different variables and behaviors. Most of August has been screening each variable, collecting data, and analyzing data to find the best performing variables. I apologize if this description is too vague, but I really have to play it safe when I talk about the details of my work! This hesitance is partially the reason why I have been so slow to update this blog, in addition to a bit of frustration.
        While my research project has progressed, I have also had many opportunities at Kraft to get involved with other projects and to learn more about the different aspects of how Kraft works, as a company. The Glenview R&D Tech Center is divided into factions, called "Business Units" or "BUs", such as Meals&Desserts, Pourables, Spoonables, Cheese&Dairy, and Central Research. Employees in the Cheese&Dairy BU research cheese and dairy products, exclusively. I am part of Central Research for this internship, which means that men and women in this group can be working on multiple projects, each from a different BU. I think Central Research is the best place to work because every day is a new project and you are not limited to any one aspect of Kraft Products.
Our "DIY" Sensory Test Area, set up in a conference room
that also contained a fully functional kitchen for 
quick sample preparation and service!

      For example, I was asked by the Flavor Group to help run a sensory test for Velveeta Shells and Cheese (VSC). The benefit of working in a large company is that you can use your own employees to screen new improvements and new products for quality and consumer acceptance. To assist the Flavor Group, I helped cook and serve each sample of VSC to coworkers and help the study run smoothly and in a timely fashion. We often had 3-4 pots of boiling noodles, each a different variable and 3-digit code! I worked with 2 other employees and we became a well oiled machine by the end of the first session (of 2 sessions)! Consumers evaluate the new standard, compared to the control, based on cheese flavor, salt, creaminess, and other factors. I don't usually eat Velveeta, but after eating some leftovers from the study, I might have found my new guilty pleasure! Having the opportunity to help run this sensory test was an excellent example of how Kraft interns can experience more than their specific research project, if they so choose. I really enjoyed myself and the whole process was delicious!

       The culture at Kraft is very communal --people are always willing to go out of their way to help one another, for the benefit of the company. As a thank you for another project that I was involved with in the Pilot Plant, I had the opportunity to prepare a luncheon for all those who helped. We work at a food company--of course we celebrate with food! We also invited my sponsors for the Evan Turek Scholarship, and the director of R&D. Scott O. and I made a full meal for our guests: Garden salad with Kraft dressings, Grilled vegetables, the Original Miracle Whip Potato Salad, "Mom's Baked Beans with a Roof of Bacon", bacon-wrapped burgers, ribs, REAL macaroni and cheese from scratch, jet-milled tiramisu cheesecake, and an amazing carrot cake. Please take some time to wipe the drool spilling out of your mouth, haha! While cooking delicious food is always fun, it was also a great learning experience for me. Scott O. taught me some important culinary lessons, such as layering flavors in the baked beans, how to create a real bechamel sauce for mac and cheese, how bacon can keep meat from drying out, and the difference between the current and historic Miracle Whip formulas. Food + Cooking + Science = Research Applications for the future.
       Jumping forwards to August 20 -- Kraft held a celebration at Kraftown, just down the road from the Tech Center. August 20 was National Jell-O day. The email was sent out to all of the Kraftown and R&D folks, inviting them to come join the event from 11-1pm at the Union. As the only intern left, I asked around to see if any of the employees would be attending. Most were busy, or unenthused by the promise of free jell-o snacks, so I rode my bike the 4 miles to see it for myself!! The Union was packed with people, relics of the beginning of the Jell-o era, Jell-o parfaits and pudding, and free Jiggler kits!! I am so glad that I went, and I have yet to be disappointed by the wonders of Kraftown!

       Some of you may know, but the day after Jell-o day, was August 21, 2014. Also known as my 22nd birthday! It was a Thursday, and I went to work wearing a special dress that my mother made for me back in October. The day was pretty normal, except that I had a 1:1 with Scott O. before I left to catch the train to Chicago for my birthday dinner. The meeting was around 2pm, I was sitting with Scott, discussing some results and my plans for the next couple of weeks, nothing really new or important. All of a sudden I saw candles and a gathering of people through the window of the Bat Cave! 10-15 Glenview employees had all come to sing and wish me a happy birthday, holding two of the most beautiful pies, made by none other than Scott O. I felt so special!!! And surprised!! The 1:1 was just a plot to get me distracted and seated for a birthday surprise. I didn't even know what to wish for....

       After completing my experiment with every combination of every variable, it was time to head up to Madison, Wisconsin to scale up my product to the Oscar Mayer pilot plant! My manager, Andy, joined me to facilitate introductions, show me the ropes, and supervise the whole process. My top 4 variables would be produced, along with the control turkey hot dog, cooked, and sent to Glenview for measurements, comparisons, and conclusions to be made. I cannot divulge much information, and the only photo I could take was by the elevator on the 7th floor of the R&D building at Oscar Mayer. They are pretty strict and secretive. What I can say is that I worked directly with Senior Technicians to mix, stuff, and cook each turkey hot dog and I assisted with trouble shooting on the various pieces of equipment. I felt very composed, productive, and in-tune with the stainless steel plant environment and was eager to help with all of the processes, including the cleaning! It was a great day!!!

      Another piece of good news: I have received the official offer to return for another internship at Kraft for next summer! After hashing out dates and project details, I plan to accept! Working at Kraft again would be a great opportunity to learn more about Food Science and transition into my graduate studies in the pursuit of a Master's Degree at an out-of-state university in the field of Food Science.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Apply for the 2015 IFT Scholarships!

Applications are now being accepted for the Evan Turek Memorial Scholarship and Internship sponsored by Kraft, the Evan Turek Memorial Scholarship and Internship sponsored by Mondelez International and the General Mills Graduate Scholarship and Internship for the 2015-2016 academic year. The General Mills application deadline is September 15th and the Evan Turek deadline is October 1st. Students who meet the eligibility criteria are encouraged to apply!!!!!!!! Here is the link: