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FoodGrads Podcast Ep: 14 Breaking into the food industry without a food science degree with Veronica Hislop, Molecular Science Graduate Student at Ryerson University

Hello everyone! The FoodGrads Podcast is back. I hope you all had a great winter break and used the time to reset. I know I sure needed it. But we are here with some exciting new year full of great conversations with all areas of the food industry.

If your new to the podcast! Hello and welcome. This is the FoodGrads Podcast, where we explore the fascinating career paths of people in the food, beverage and hospitality industries.

I’m your host Veronica Hislop, a molecular science graduate student and career partner with FoodGrads.

You might have already noticed that was my voice at the beginning. That is no mistake because to start off the new year we have a podcast where I’m being interviewed. I thought that this would be a great time to do this because when I’m listening to podcasts I like to learn more about the host.

So here it is! But it isn’t a monologue because I am being being interviewed by Anjali Patel a new contributing blog author with FoodGrads 🙂

Stay tuned for her podcast.

In this episode Anjali sat down with to ask me questions about my journey in the food industry from high school to now and why I decided to go to graduate school after working for a year in the industry.

We also dive into more about my program and why I am not in a food degree program despite my involvement with it.

So enough with the intro. Let’s get onto the show!

Show Notes

[0:54] Tell me more about your journey towards graduate school. How did that happen?

When Veronica was in high she wanted to be a baker but somehow it morphed into her going to food science. She was interested in the President’s Choice Insider Report. After deciding she wanted to go into food science she applied for the University of Guelph, Western University, Ryerson University, Brescia University College for all their food science programs. But Veronica got waitlisted on everything but Brescia. However, Veronica didn’t want to live on campus so she went into Ryerson’s Chemistry program because it was the only thing that accepted her.

Because the Chemistry program was so broad in order to specialize she made sure to get co-op positions in the food industry. Which led to a co-op placement at Gay Lea Foods as a Quality Control Summer Technician. After the summer placement this led to a second/third co-op placement in the Research and Development department. Working in the R&D department allowed her to run pilot plant trials and have first hand experience on what it is like making new products.

At this point this is when I started to get involved with FoodGrads with Nicole. There I started writing blog posts and writing articles on flavours on the My Food Job Rocks podcast. During my 4th year undergraduate degree I did a thesis on the “Characterization of Cocoa Butters Based on Country of Origin” under the supervision of Dr.Derick Rousseau.

[6:30] Talking about my undergraduate thesis on the “Characterization of Cocoa Butters Based on Country of Origin” under the supervision of Dr.Derick Rousseau.

[9:00] Did your high school promote the food industry? If they did would that change your school trajectory?

No, I don’t think food science was promoted in my school. I thought about a lot of career paths. In Ontario the hospitality courses are college bound and you couldn’t use them for University. I got accepted into the college programs first but I choose to go into Food Science.

I applied to Food Science programs but they didn’t accept me. So it was more on me why it didn’t happen.

[11:46] Let’s talk about your non-food science program now. What is it like?

When I decided to do a master’s degree I emailed my old supervisor and asked him if he would accept me into the program. He said yes so I went into the program. I went into this program because of the research I would be doing not the program name. At Ryerson they only require you to take 3 courses with the expectation you focus on your research.

Ryerson’s Molecular Science program looks at a range of different subjects. So you are in a room with Biology and Chemistry students. It is a highly collaborative group. I love my lab group and how diverse they are.

[15:30] Would recommend students go through the same path as you if they were going into the food industry or would you recommend that they specialize?

Go with what works for you and what you enjoy. Make sure you choose what you like and make your experience tailored to what you need. Because of what I have done with FoodGrads I spent the time to understand the industry and I could argue that I know more than others who were a food specific program.

[17:46] Tell me more about your research and what you like about that.

I am studying water-in-oil emulsions stabilized by fat crystals. I am focused on understanding the surfactants/emulsifiers and the fundamentals. I specifically am understanding the textural properties and what is really happening with.

[20:09] Can you talk about the bigger picture? Where do we see applications of this research?

With my research it is already out there on the market. You can find it in the supermarket low-fat margarine but we don’t understand the science behind them.

[21:05] Are you thinking about doing a PhD in the same area?

Yes, I have started to put in my application into the transfer program. You would admit a Master’s degree and go into the PhD program.

[22:23] Has COVID-19 affected your research?

Yes, because I live in a high-risk area because my school is in Toronto. In March I wasn’t in the lab. The province didn’t allow anything to be open. I had no results that I could even analyze. So I just used the time to read and tried write a literature review.

I couldn’t go back until August. We started to be on a modified schedule. It slowed a lot of things done. The project I am doing now I would have thought it would have been done a long time ago.

Ryerson has given some financial help students are going to take to long.

[27:00] How do you handle so much on your plate?

Know what you are doing. I heavily rely on journaling for mental clarity. I also use Notion to help me stay organized. Focus on the fundamentals go to sleep on time. Don’t dally with your time. Exercise.

Don’t do things when your tired. Have really good relationships with people and rely on them. Lean on your relationships for strength. Communicate things out. Be happy it helps you to get things to be more productive.

[33:14] Can you tell me more about your application process for graduate school. Do you have an particular good advice?

I might not be the best person to ask because at Ryerson you first need a professor to approve you. So for me going to graduate school was more of a decision to apply.

Make sure you have options. When in school make sure you have a good grades even you are thinking about graduate school. Put pieces in place that could lead you to what you want to do in the future.

[38:20] Is there things in the food industry that you things should be better?

We need to appreciate where our food comes from. To promote how multi-cultural these workplaces are. Learn to communicate betweenDavi people together more. Celebrate each other more.

[42:00] Do you have good recommendations for books, podcasts or people should follow?

Food Professor Podcast

My Food Job Rocks

Gastropods Podcast

BBC’s Food Chain

Tim Ferris

Inforium

Emulsions, Principles, Practices and Techniques by David McClements

The Third Plate

Check out people in the industry that you are interested in. Comment on their stuff.

FoodGrads

Nicole Gallace

Dr. Darin Detwiler

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