Tag: #Research

Career Highlight: Food Scientists

Adapted from environmentalscience.org and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 

Want to work to ensure the nutritional value, safety, and quality of foods in the United States and elsewhere? Want to help develop the next vegetarian burger patty or ice cream flavor to hit the market? Interested in exploring careers where you can still spend parts of your day in a lab setting? If any of this sounds intriguing, read on! 

Job Duties: 

Food scientists and technologists use chemistry, biology, and other sciences to study food. They analyze the nutritional content of food and research ways to make processed foods safe and healthy. They may also work in product development and develop better ways of preserving and processing. 

Where They Work: 

Food scientists typically work full-time and spend most of their time in laboratories and offices. However, traveling is occasionally needed to conduct site visits at food processing plants.  

Food scientists work in a variety of different industries, which may shift the focus of the job. For example, a food scientist working for a government agency may focus on using their research to advise policymakers. Those working in the private industry may be looking at whether new processed foods are safe to consume or fit with federal nutrition guidelines or may be involved in developing new products. Those working for agricultural companies like Cargill, Monsanto or Tyson may research new ways to process foods more efficiently or improve the quality of crops and livestock. 

Education and Training: 

Food scientists or food technologists will often need at least a bachelor’s degree in Food Science or another related field (e.g., Chemistry or Biology). Participating in lab work during your undergraduate is necessary as it helps you gain experience before going into the workforce. Internships are highly recommended as well because many entry-level jobs value firsthand, practical experience. In fact, many companies in the food industry will use internships as a hiring pipeline for full-time roles. 

Those who go on to earn higher degrees have a more advanced knowledge of their field, and there are some master’s programs especially designed for individuals without an undergraduate degree in Food Science (For example: The one-year Master of Food Science program at Cornell University).  

Pay and Job Outlook: 

Overall, employment is projected to grow by 9% from 2020-2030 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median salary was $73,450 in May 2020.  

Dear Career Center, how do I email professors to inquire about an undergraduate research opportunity?

Emailing professors about research opportunities can be daunting, especially if you don’t have a personal relationship with the professor. How do you contact a professor when they’re in a different department, or if they’re at another institution?
General emailing conventions apply. Emails to professors should:

  1. Have an informative subject line. Example: Meeting to discuss your research
  2. Be concise and direct. See template example below
  3. Be formal. e.g., Dear Dr./Professor Simmons, Sincerely, etc.

If you know the professor because you’ve taken their classes, emailing them to request a meeting to discuss research opportunities will suffice. Depending upon the professor, an entire conversation might even take place via email.
For professors who you do not know, an initial email should include:

  1. An introduction: Include your class year and major(s)
  2. When emailing off-campus, specify that you’re a student at Lawrence University
  3. How you found out about their research or specific project
  4. Explain why you’re interested in their research
  5. Describe any of your relevant research and/or class experience
  6. Explain why gaining undergraduate research experience is important to you (e.g., what goals are you hoping to achieve, what skills are you hoping to develop)
  7. Ask them if they might be available for a brief 20-30 minute meeting to talk about their work, and/or whether they offer undergraduate research positions over the summer

Here’s an example format of a general email to a professor:

Subject: Meeting to discuss your research
Dear Professor/Dr. [Last Name of Professor],
My name is [name] and I am a [class year] at Lawrence University majoring in [major]. I found out about your research [explanation of how you found out about it]. I am especially interested in your work because [explanation of why this topic interests you].
My experience in [research experience or class] confirmed my desire to further develop my research skills and [goal]. I am sure you are very busy, but would you potentially have 20 minutes to talk about your research via phone?
I would appreciate the chance to talk with you about your research in this field, and if any, potential future opportunities in your lab. I have attached my resume and unofficial transcript. Please let me know if there is any other information I can provide. I look forward to hearing from you.

You can find more examples here. Remember: A well-written, thoughtful email that feels personalized to someone’s research is more likely to elicit a response, especially if you are pursuing opportunities off-campus. If you need help, you can always make an appointment with myself or Jacklyn, our #PHN advisor, to discuss your resume and how to begin the research exploration process.

Raisa Fatima ’23 is a Physics major with interests in research and engineering. She enjoys painting, reading and playing games like Stardew Valley in her spare time. Raisa works as a Career Peer Educator for the BE and PHN career communities so if you’re interested in anything PHN or BE related, or you just need some general advice on anything professional development related like resumes, cover letter etc. you can schedule an appointment here.

Tips for Gaining Experience in a Pandemic

1. Finding Summer Research:

  • Ask faculty members if they have funding for research and are planning to continue their research over the summer. Since Lawrence’s campus is relatively safe and the research is usually highly individualized, it is a good way to improve research skills. It might not be possible, but it doesn’t hurt to ask and apply.
  • If on-campus research is not possible, ask if it is possible for faculty to connect you with someone they know and be sure to follow-up with them.
  • Search for off-campus research. Handshake and pathwaystoscience.org are good places to start. The National Science Foundation funds research known as Research Experiences for Undergraduates or REUs. Additional organizations include Oak Ridge Institute for Science Education and Los Alamos National and Laboratory.
  • The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has its internship listings here if you’re interested in working in these fields.
  • If you’re interested in pursuing research related to ecology, Harvard has a summer research program. Find details about the program and its application process here.

2. Searching for Remote Projects:

Try finding a mentor who is willing and able to help you with a remote project. This involves doing the research project away from the research site or office. Most work these days requires more and more computational skills and given the prevalence of the pandemic, remote work is a good way to improve these skills if in-person research is not possible. A good way to look for mentors includes asking faculty, as well as reaching out to alumni on Viking Connect.

3. Improving Computational Skills:

  • If none of the above options are possible, improve your computational skills on your own. Try practicing with different data analysis software other than Excel through self-study or online classes.
  • A good way to learn coding is to do projects that connect to your hobbies. For example, if you enjoy music, a potential project idea could be coding an Arduino to sing a specific song .
  • Lawrence may fund the purchases of some licenses if you ask. Check to see if this is possible.

Raisa Fatima ’23 is a Physics major with interests in research and engineering. She works as a Career Peer Educator for the PHN career community so if you’re interested in anything PHN related, or you just need some general advice on anything professional development related like resumes, cover letter etc. you can schedule an appointment here.