A taste for food science

By Erin Oates ’14

As a dietetics major, there are many careers where I can use my anticipated degree. After shadowing a clinical dietitian my freshman year, I was certain that the hospital setting is not for me and began to consider other areas I could carry out my passion for nutrition, cooking and science.

The summer going into my sophomore year, as well as this summer, I am fortunate enough to have the most rewarding internship working alongside a food scientist at Bay Valley Foods’ Research and Development Lab in Pecatonica, Ill.

Bay Valley Foods is one of the nation’s leading suppliers of various private label foods to major retail, foodservice, bulk and ingredient and international customers. Food scientists at Bay Valley Foods R&D lab hold various degrees such as microbiology, nutrition, culinary arts and food science making for an experienced, comprehensive and collaborative research team. Last summer, I was involved in acidified food innovation and production—working mostly with pickles, relish and syrup.

This summer, I am involved in coffee creamers and various other beverage research—a much more appetizing line of work, at least to my taste buds. Bay Valley Foods serves as the world’s largest private supplier of non-dairy powdered creamers. This status requires the need to innovate as well as preserve Bay Valley’s food supply.

As an intern, I assist in projects dealing with cost reduction, flavor matching, color matching along with innovation of products. From calculations to weighing up formulas, spray drying and taste testing panels, every day at the Bay Valley Foods lab is busy, exciting and almost always tasty. I participate in every event as other employees, such as attending flavor presentations, conducting experiments, contributing to discussions and taking part in taste testing panels. I have established a network of relationships and resources at the company.

Considering the combination of nutrition, food service, science, research and lab skills, this internship is giving me the experience I need to narrow my selection of a concentrated dietetic internship when I apply my senior year. Last summer, my site supervisor and her peers encouraged me to consider food science as a future career and were happy to hear my future plans include completing a dietetic internship to obtain my RD license as well as pursuing a master’s degree in food science. Waking up five days a week at 5:30 a.m. all summer long excited to go to work, I realized this was the job for me.

Comments (2)

Joe TomilonusJune 13th, 2012 at 8:46 am


It’s a small world. Perhaps you remember me. I am Tania Tomilonus’ dad. I’ve worked in the food ingredients industry for over 30 years. I worked for Kerry Ingredients for many years, but recently left to go to work for a smaller company. My degree was a BS in Food Science. I think you are making a very smart decision to further your education with a Masters in Food Science. I have never regretted my career path. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any advice or would like to expand your network in the food industry.

Joe Tomilonus

JayshreeJune 18th, 2012 at 8:27 am

Fantastic work, Erin. Hope this summer is full of adventure as well.

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