UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For members of Penn State’s Food Science Club, the organization isn’t just a way to share a passion for the discipline — it’s a way to build their academic and professional careers.
The Food Science Club is a student group in the College of Agricultural Sciences made up of undergraduate and graduate students from all Penn State colleges. The club primarily promotes interactions between food science students, faculty and the food industry through various events held throughout the year, but is also an opportunity for students to advance their academic and professional careers.
Sydney McMurray, a third-year food science student and club co-president, said her involvement with the group began long before she enrolled at Penn State, thanks to Christopher Sigler, assistant professor of food science and faculty club advisor.
“I knew from high school that I wanted to major in food science, and my mom suggested the program at Penn State,” McMurray said. “During our campus visit, Dr. Sigler was giving out free chocolate and gave me a tour of the building and told me all about the club and the major.”
Sigler said he is proud of what the club has accomplished for its members.
“I am extremely impressed with how this club has provided countless internships and job opportunities to its members,” she said. “As club advisors, Dr. Josephine Wee and I are proud of how well they have created and fostered a family-oriented culture for their members.”
The Food Science Club meets once a week to discuss club business and activities. These meetings include guest speakers and presentations from food companies, where they also organize a social dinner for students. The club also hosts social activities such as the annual Food Science Tailgate, Harvestfest ice cream paddle at DelGrosso Amusement Park, and career workshops, among others.
Ultimately, McMurray said, the club’s goal is to help achieve academic and career success for its members.
“The goal is to connect students with their peers, their professors and potential employers,” she said. “It gives them an open space to talk about the industry and discover where they want to be in the future.”
McMurray said the club also values community building, as many alumni return to talk about their careers. Since most of the speakers who come to the club’s weekly meetings are graduates of Penn State’s food science program or a related field, there is always an opportunity to build connections between graduates and students, she added.
Kacie Czyszczon, a third-year food science student and vice president of the club, has been involved with the organization since coming to Penn State and served as social chair her sophomore year. She said her experience with the club has been very positive and the group is welcoming to all students and fields of study, even though it is centered around food science.
“One of the great parts of the Food Science Club is the community it creates and how it can bring everyone together,” Czyszczon said. “We have so many activities throughout the year — like candle making, Halloween pumpkin painting, Valentine’s Day cookie decorating and holiday bingo — in addition to the food science-based ones.”
While both Czyszczon and McMurray are food science majors, Christina Javadi is a second-year architecture student who became involved with the Food Science Club through one of its social events.
“I think the concept of food science is very interesting,” Javadi said. “I have a chronic illness, so food is medicine for me, so focusing on what I eat is very important. I feel that food science is about understanding what goes into foods and how people react to them, so that’s why I really enjoy the club!”
While talking about the alumni club and its ties to Penn State, Giavadi noted that she feels very supported even though she is not a food science major or directly related to the discipline.
“Even though I’m in a different field, the network helps me in many ways,” she said. “Many companies that come to the meetings have internship opportunities available. Although most of them are food companies, they have many departments and many connections that can be made for students in other majors.
In discussing the academic and professional benefits the Nutrition Science Club has to offer, McMurray said talking with alumni and learning about the types of opportunities available in the field helped her develop confidence in what she was looking for beyond his undergraduate career.
“Many of the graduates will emphasize taking courses that you don’t think you’ll want, but could help you somewhere in your career,” she said. “The club gives you a safe place where you don’t feel like you’re turning to strangers for advice, but to people who have been exactly where you are and care about where you’re going.”
Czyszczon also said that just interacting with other older club members helps provide a sense of mentorship, given that they have been involved in the Food Science program longer and have experience with classes and internships.
The Food Science Club meets every Monday at 5:30 pm in the Keeney Commons, which can be found directly above the Penn State Creamery. Anyone can join, and more information about the club and its mission can be found on the organization’s Instagram.