Stephen Young

Stephen Young
Bio-inspired systems to protect and deliver sensitive compounds

This interview was conducted in spring 2017, when Stephen Young was a Keller Pathway Fellow. 

Stephen Young is a doctoral candidate in food science and technology. His area of research focuses on nutraceuticals and food processing, more specifically to develop innovative, low-cost and biologically inspired approaches to improve the oxidative and thermal stability of bioactives during processing and storage. He is also affiliated with InnovaNutra, a UC Davis startup focusing on bio-based encapsulation systems for the food and cosmetic industries.

In a nutshell, describe your project or venture.

I am designing bio-inspired systems to protect and deliver sensitive compounds.

What’s important about your research or project—and where do you hope to take it?

The novelty of my research lies in utilizing pre-made natural structures with low-energy encapsulations methods. This technology has potential to increase the shelf-life of commercial food and cosmetic ingredients by several-fold and reduce the costs associated with labile bioactive degradation. I hope to take this venture to market to provide a cheaper, more efficient, all-natural solution to encapsulation.

What are you most passionate about in your work?

As a life-long student, what I am most passionate about is learning! I want to know how I can transform ideas into marketable products; how can I best use science and technology to improve the lives of others; how can I make profit while maintaining moral integrity; and how I can lead a successful venture. Even as an entrepreneur, I still want to learn! My hope is that I can share my knowledge and experience with others in the future to help them build their own strong foundations in entrepreneurship.

What is the most unexpected advice you received from a mentor?

“A great idea is not good enough to build a successful venture. You need a great team and network; with these, you can make even the worst idea profitable.”

How has participation in the Big Bang! workshops and business competition helped you as an aspiring entrepreneur?

The Big Bang! workshops and the Food + Ag Entrepreneurship Academy provided me with the experience and knowledge from years of struggle and hardship from fellow entrepreneurs—which will allow me to circumvent some of these same difficulties in my own venture. Moreover, these magnanimous entrepreneurs have become mentors and have strengthened my network. 

The Keller Pathway Fellowship Program specifically supports women, cross-disciplinary researchers and other underrepresented university-based entrepreneurs. Do you have any insight, experience or concern you’d like to share?

The Keller Pathway Fellowship has been a truly insightful experience and has opened the way for my peers and for me to a successful career in business or entrepreneurship. In the future, it would be an excellent opportunity to speak with past fellows and follow up on their ventures and journeys. 

How will your experiences as a Keller Pathway Fellow help you to change the world?

Changing the world is an ambitious goal! However, the experiences I’ve gained through this program have shown me the value of community, network, munificence and perseverance—all of which I truly believe are required to make a significant impact on the world.