By Ellen Bombela, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service
Food science research attracted two students to Iowa State University this summer to do research as part of the George Washington Carver Summer Research Program.
Jealae Jackson and Alescia King are graduate students from Alabama A&M University, who will complete their masters’ degrees in food science this May.
“We had some collaborative research going on between Iowa State and Alabama A&M so we were here visiting last November, and then we found out about the GWC internship. We both applied, got in and the rest is history,” King said.
Both women applied to the internship program and were assigned to the same lab. Although they were in the same lab working on similar projects, their research differs.
Jackson’s research was focused on using lactic, acetic and citric acid on chicken skin to analyze pathogen viability.
“Salmonella is a big thing and there are lots of outbreaks, so to be able to control that on poultry products is big,” Jackson said.
The project that she has been working on this summer is a part of her thesis for her master’s degree, so she will continue her research at Alabama A&M.
Aside from working toward her master’s degree in food science, Jackson is also a certified chef.
“I have always loved to create things,” Jackson said. “I went to culinary school to learn how to make the food, and I went to university to learn the science behind the food.”
Jackson plans to combine these two interests when she begins working in the industry.
“I’m hoping to become a culinologist,” Jackson said. “A culinologist merges culinary and food science together. For example, you would develop a product, test the microbial side of things and also be the chef.”
After working in the industry for about 10 years, Jackson’s dream is to open her own restaurant.
Although it’s in the future, she already knows what she wants the restaurant to be called, where she wants it to be located and what she will serve.
“I want to do a healthy take on soul food,” Jackson said. “It will be located in Alabama.”
Attending a professional development retreat helped Jackson and the others interns prepare for their careers.
“Previous graduates came back and shared their stories and different tips for working in the industry, which was helpful,” Jackson said.
Investigating the ability of commercially available rinses to control the growth of Salmonella enterica on shell eggs was the focus of King’s research. She tested a variety of organic acids to find the ones that work best against salmonella on poultry products.
When King first started going to college as an undergraduate, she had no idea that this is what she would be doing.
“I originally got my bachelor’s degree in chemistry with an intention to go into physical therapy,” King said. “In the process I realized that I really didn’t like it, so I went on this journey to figure out what I wanted.”
King ended up going through pathology, histology and also shadowing quite a few people before discovering food science.
“I didn’t really know anything about it, but I knew I liked food and science and the more I looked into it, the more I realized it was a pretty good fit,” King said. “Then I ended up at Alabama A&M working toward a master’s degree in food science.”
After completing her master’s degree in May, King plans to come to Iowa State to work on a doctorate degree. Once she’s done with school she plans to enter the industry and hopefully work internationally.
“I want to do some form of food safety education, but I don’t want to just be in a classroom,” King said. “I want to be able to have the freedom to do my own projects but also be a part of the industry.”
This summer King enjoyed getting to know other students through the summer internship program.
“It was so neat to get to experience the other interns’ cultures. We got to hear stories from different people in different situations and it was really eye-opening to be able to experience,” King said.
The interns grew their personal and professional skills through trips, seminars and workshops that were scheduled for them throughout the summer.
Note: Photos by Christopher Gannon, University Photographer