Applying food science to nourish lives
Shan Huang is a second-year master’s student in the Department of Food Science and Technology. Born and raised in China, she came to the U.S. five years ago and graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor in food science and a minor in business. Huang says, “I am inspired to deliver safe, nutritious, convenient and good-tasting food products to consumers, and I believe food is the most affordable means to create moments and bond people together.”
Huang has completed several internships in the U.S. and China: two R&D positions at General Mills in Minneapolis; a marketing internship with Bio-Rad in Hercules, Calif.; a product development internship at Starbucks in Shanghai and a food regulation internship at Cargill in Beijing.
Note: This interview was conducted during Shan Huang’s tenure as a 2015/16 Business Development Fellow.
What’s important about your research—and where do you hope to take it?
My research project is to develop and apply advanced imaging methods to characterize food powders. Food powders are ubiquitous in the food industry and can be found as food ingredients or as stand-alone products. However, the physical and chemical properties of food powders can only be reflected by macro-level analysis. I am using confocal laser scanning microscopy to deliver a direct visual representation of the microstructure of food powders, and correlating this image information to the quality attributes. With this method, I hope to help industry to better understand how formulation and processing changes will affect the structure of food powders—and the operational/financial consequences of such changes.
What are you most passionate about in your work?
I am passionate about applying my food science knowledge to nourish lives by helping deliver nutritious, safe, low-cost and sustainable food products to consumers. Today there are many underutilized food resources and processing technologies that may help us better address consumers’ concerns such as reducing food waste, preserving nutrients and retaining freshness. I hope my research and my future work will create innovative solutions to bridging such gaps, and engage other people in the technical community to do the same.
How will being in the Business Development Fellows program help you to change the world?
In the food industry—or even broader, in the consumer packaged goods industry—a successful R&D career involves not only advancing technologies, but also aligning with colleagues from other functional teams (marketing, consumer insight, finance, operation) to deliver the result. The Business Development Fellows program is helping me better communicate with partners who are outside the technical community so that I can excel in my work at the beginning of my career. In the long term, I believe the exposure to strategic innovation management can help me better develop plans to lead R&D teams and manage a greater technology/product portfolio. In general, I hope my BD fellow experience will help me better serve consumers by delivering the products that can enhance their lives, and better serve the community by developing solutions that can mitigate food sustainability problems.
Now at midpoint in the program, what is the most important thing you have learned—and the most critical connection you have made?
I have learned is to strategically build innovative business initiatives that are not only technically solid, but also financially and operationally viable. I am fortunate to connect with Dr. Hemant Vaidya, who taught MGT 290—Business Development Clinic. Dr. Vaidya had abundant experience as an R&D executive in large corporate and generously shared his career stories with us. He is a tremendous mentor to me.