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UMN Students Get a World of Experiential Opportunity
Minnesota Ag Connection - 01/24/2023

Holly Husband and Nigel Kang kept good company over the summer — or rather good companies. Husband and Kang are two food science graduate students who interned with global food companies General Mills and PURIS, respectively. Both students have also had the opportunity to work in the Plant Protein Innovation Center (PPIC), completing lab research under the direction of Department of Food Science and Nutrition Professor and PPIC Director Pam Ismail, PhD.

“At my core, I am passionate about food. I grew up fascinated with cooking and baking and was always eager to watch the Food Network with my mom or grandma,” said Husband. This summer, Husband was a research and development scientist intern at General Mills supporting Yoplait innovation. On a typical day, Husband worked with her team to develop, produce, and improve yogurt formulas.

“On a personal level, the most rewarding and exciting part of my internship was to simply work with the food brands that I grew up eating,” she said. “General Mills has been making food for over 150 years, and tapping into their knowledge and witnessing the technologies that contributed to their status as a top food producer has been a highlight of my food science career.”

Husband received her bachelor of science degree in the food and nutrition sciences in December 2020 from CFANS. As an undergraduate at CFANS, Husband was able to participate in product development internships at SunOpta and Cargill, as well as participate in research at the PPIC.

After completing her graduate degree, Holly plans to enter industry as a product development scientist and has long-term goals in research, later hoping to get her PhD. “Ultimately, food science truly is the perfect blend of science, creativity, sustainability, and health, and it has taken me on an exciting and fulfilling journey that has only just begun,” she said.

“Agriculture as it relates to food production needs to be sustainable for future generations and the health of the planet. A healthy planet means a healthy population,” said Kang, a current food science PhD candidate. Over the summer, Kang was a food science intern at PURIS, a company that manufactures pea-based ingredients such as proteins and starches. Kang was involved in multiple projects and worked cross-functionally with food scientists, engineers, the quality assurance team, and the marketing team.

The majority of his time was spent evaluating the performance of PURIS ingredients in various food formats, investigating upcycling potential of byproducts from pea protein processing, and exploring processing alternatives to improve protein yield.

“One of the biggest highlights of my internship was the opportunity to visit PURIS’ manufacturing plants and co-manufacturers. For one of the visits, we wanted to test if a successful ingredient innovation we made in the lab would turn out the same way when produced scaled-up,” he said. “It was nerve-wracking to see if it would run successfully at a co-manufacturer, and it eventually did. That was an exciting moment for me. It was truly a holistic experience that allowed me to understand the company culture and structure while being able to apply the knowledge I’ve learned from school.”

Kang's passion for environmental sustainability encourages his aspirations to make impact in sustainable food systems during and after his PhD program. He believes his learning will apply far beyond the classroom. “Studying foods at the molecular level is fascinating, but what makes it so important is how we can utilize this information to better improve the health of people and the planet,” he said.

Both Husband and Kang encourage students seeking experiential learning opportunities to be persistent in achieving their goals and to get involved in things outside of the classroom, even if it pushes students outside of their comfort zones. Husband said, “Do not be afraid to start small, because it takes time and experience to build a career path or get the position you want (Disclosure: It took me four years to land my dream internship!) If you get rejected, don’t give up! Be persistent and consistent every day, and over time, your efforts will be rewarded.” Kang advises students to constantly challenge themselves to constantly grow. “Sometimes, growth might look like overcoming a failure or a rejection. Expect to go through hardships, but never let it stop you from chasing your dreams, because if there is a will, there is a way,” he said.


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