To our alumni:
This alumni corner is set up so that current undergraduate students at Binghamton can find out more about varied careers and paths toward those careers that you have taken. If you are willing to share your experience, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
JUNE QI_ZHENG (Ph.D. Biology 1993)
Principal Food Scientist, Unilever Best Foods, then International Flavors and Fragrances
I have been working as a Principal Food Scientist at Unilever Best Foods for the past eight and half years. Unilever Best Foods North America (formerly Unilever and Best Foods) is a large food and beverage company with many leading brands, such as Skippy peanut butter, Lipton tea, Lipton side dishes, Hellmann's mayonnaise, Ragu pasta sauce, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and Wish Bone salad dressing. I worked in Research and Development department and my primary responsibility is to develop and improve food and beverage products that brings good nutrition, taste and convenience to our consumers.
While at Unilever Best Foods, my colleague and I developed Lipton Cold Brew tea that brews in cold water within a few minutes so that consumers don't have to boil water to brew the tea and wait for it to cool down. This patented technology allows us to be the only company that can make this product. I have also worked on improving the quality and taste of Brisk tea and Lipton Ice tea product. I found my training in biochemistry and enzymolgy (I worked with Dr. Anna Tan-Wilson and Karl Wilson on soybean enzymes) helped a great deal in my job since food or food ingredients are mainly protein, carbohydrate and lipids. I have found great satisfaction in my job because it has immediate practical impact to our daily living. Unlike protein purification and molecular cloning projects, which you have to work a few weeks or month to get results, food or beverage products can be made within a day and you can taste and eat them! Typically in a food company, many people from different departments or factory work together to create the products that you see in the supermarket. Usually, they include research and development (product development), marketing (advertise and promote the products), supply chain (plan and manufacture the products), quality control (make sure the quality meets the specification) and packaging. There are a lot of interactions between various functions and you work in a cross-functional team. I do travel to our plants for new product trial and commercialization.
Recently, I took another job offer and will be working for International Flavor and Fragrances on flavor research. I'll be responsible to find ways to enhance flavor impact on various foods.
I became interested in food science when I was working as a Postdoc Research Associate in the Dept. of Food Science at Rutgers University, where I worked on purification, characterization and molecular cloning of membrane-bound glucan synthase in red beets. Rutgers Food Science has excellent Master and Ph.D programs and many of their graduates work for food companies in New Jersey and everywhere else. You need to take required courses, such as Food Chemistry, Food Safety/Microbiology, Nutrition and Food Engineering, and complete a thesis on your research project. If you are interested in learning more about career in food science, you can go to www.ift.org (IFT stands for Institute of Food Technologists). Rutgers Food Science department also has a website: www.foodsci.rutgers.edu if you are interested.
Best of luck to all of you in your career!