From Health Care to Food Safety: Why I Love What I Study

From an early age, I was astounded by the world of science and I knew I wanted to study it in greater depth.

In grade 11 chemistry, we once made acetylsalicylic acid or commonly known as aspirin from salicylic acid and acetic acid, and something clicked in my mind. A 17-year-old Amarsha then and there took a decision to pursue a career in health care as a pharmacist because I loved chemistry. I thought a career in pharmacy would allow me to understand the chemistry of all the drug therapies and I will become part of the health care system and serve a greater purpose.

I started my post-secondary journey at the University of Toronto in general sciences and later double majored in Biology for Health Sciences and Chemistry. I thoroughly enjoyed learning different aspects of the human body, health impacts, and particularly protein chemistry. I graduated in 2016 and was still hopeful to pursue a career in health care.

But life had different plans for me I suppose.  I was exposed to the world of Food Science through my summer placement at Maple Leaf Foods (MLF).

I thoroughly enjoyed my placement at MLF. I was directly able to apply the knowledge in Biology and Chemistry I accumulated over the course of my undergraduate studies. I was later encouraged to apply to study at Guelph (and later come to work for MLF after I graduated).

However, my dream to become a pharmacist remained intact. As I continued to study for my Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT), I was still fascinated by my job in the food industry. Every day I got to learn something new and encountered a new challenge. I apprehended the implications of producing nutritious and safe food that feeds the whole country and the planet.

Keeping this experience in mind, I went ahead and applied to Guelph as well.

As I mentioned earlier, life had different plans for me and a career in health care did not work out for me. So, I opted for a career in the Food industry and accepted my offer here at Guelph. Now I am so happy I made this call since I love every bit of the program!

I get to learn the core concepts of food chemistry, food microbiology and food safety management. I also have interacted with numerous other foodies who integrate the science of food in every aspect of their lives.

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For instance, the caramelization of onions that provides a nutty flavour was studied in depth in my food chemistry class. Basically, every aspect of cooking can become scientific through the lens of a food scientist and lead to better and delicious foods.

Furthermore, my research revolves around validating a method that accurately quantifies and detects genetically modified content in food through the use of DNA. Correct labelling of GM containing food products is crucial since it’s a requirement for exporting to the European Union (EU) and other countries.

Also, food fraud is a topic of huge concern and consumers should be aware of the contents of their food such that they can make an informed choice. This being said, I am a huge science nerd and have always been pro-GMOs since going all organic may not be able to feed the 7.8 billion and growing population of the planet.

Follow My Adventure!

I’ll be writing ongoing for the FoodGrads blog.  I plan on writing regarding food regulations, food safety, quality assurance and try to disseminate the knowledge I am currently acquiring through my graduate studies and through my research work experience. Previously, I like many others, had limited knowledge regarding the amount of effort required in developing a food product, it’s food safety, quality and even determining the shelf life. The world of food science is complex, intriguing and very fascinating.

I plan to write about this world and share my graduate school experiences!

Amarsha Sodhi, M.Sc. Food Safety and Quality Assurance candidate at University of Guelph & FoodGrads Campus Ambassador.

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