Food Science (General)
The many active research programs in food science and technology provide excellent opportunities and facilities for research in engineering aspects of food processing, packaging, and storage; measurement of the physical properties of foods; unit operations; food rheology and texture; process engineering; dehydration; concentration; evaluation of changes in nutrient content of foods during processing and storage; protein and enzyme technology; food fabrication; product and process development; packaging; development of new ingredients; functional properties of food components; meat (animal, avian) handling and processing; and specific research on various food commodities.
Food chemistry is concerned with analytical, biochemical, chemical, physical, nutritional, and toxicological aspects of foods and food ingredients. The long-term goals of research in food chemistry are to understand relationships between the structure and functional properties of food molecules and to improve the nutritional, safety and organoleptic aspects of food. Opportunities for research projects in food chemistry include structure/function relationships in food molecules (rheology, emulsions, foams, gels); computer modeling of food molecules; effects of processing, fortification, and packaging on nutritional quality of foods; food toxicology; and flavor chemistry of fruits and vegetables.
Food Microbiology/Food Safety
Microbiology is important to food safety, production, processing, preservation, and storage. Food microbiology students use a wide variety of modern technologies from fields including immunology, microbiology, and molecular biology. Microbes such as yeasts, molds, and bacteria are being used for the production of foods and food ingredients. Beneficial microbes are exploited in the fermentative production, processing, and preservation of many foods and beverages. Spoilage microorganisms cost food producers, processors, and consumers millions of dollars annually in lost products. Lost productivity resulting from illness caused by foodborne microorganisms is an enormous economic burden throughout the world. The study of food microbiology includes understanding not only the factors influencing the growth of microorganisms in food systems but also the means of controlling them. Possible research projects include the genetic control of microorganisms important to foods, the genetics and biochemistry of bacteriophage, site-directed mutagenesis to improve catalytic functions of enzymes, the spoilage bacteria in fruit products, factors influencing growth of human pathogens in foods, and rapid methods for detecting foodborne pathogens.
Food engineering applies engineering principles to food processing equipment. Because engineering is a quantitative discipline, the food engineer’s fundamental tool is mathematics. Chemistry and microbiology are also important disciplines because processes of concern to food engineers may involve chemical reactions, microbial interactions, or both. Potential research projects in food engineering include heat and mass transport phenomena in food systems, the rheology of fluid foods in food processing, supercritical fluid extraction of biomaterials, extrusion, computer applications in process control and data acquisition, energy conservation through process modifications, and engineering properties of food and related biomaterials.
Dairy science involves the chemistry, microbiology, and engineering properties of dairy foods. Long-term goals of the dairy science program at Cornell are to improve the quality and safety of milk and processed dairy products and to develop improved methods for the manufacture of cheese and other dairy products. Examples of research projects in dairy science include cheese flavor development, membrane processing of milk and whey, studies of native milk enzymes and their role in cheese flavor, the functional properties of whey proteins, and computer modeling to manipulate the functional properties of b-lactoglobulin.
Food Processing Waste Technology
The increasing importance of pollution control and energy and resource conservation has created a demand for people trained in food processing waste technology in industry, government, and research institutions. The primary objective of research in this area is to convert byproducts of food processing operations to usable materials. For example, processes using ultrafiltration technology have been developed to concentrate cheese whey proteins for use as food ingredients. Experiments are under way to develop practical methods of converting fruit and vegetable processing wastes into fuels, chemicals, biologicals, and food ingredients.
Sensory evaluation uses test methods that provide information on how products are perceived through the senses. The importance of sensory perception to food quality is widely appreciated in the food industry, providing a demand for such specialists. Research projects are conducted in three main areas. Methods research is aimed at providing improvements in the reliability and validity of sensory tests. Product-focused research uses sensory analysis to measure the success of variations in product processing or ingredients. Basic research on perception and human judgment advances our understanding of sensory function.
Enology applies expertise from a wide range of disciplines, including microbiology, chemistry, sensory science and process technology to the science of wine and winemaking. The objectives of enological research at Cornell University are to understand and develop methods to control microbiological, chemical and processing variables and their effect on wine quality, organoleptic properties and health. Faculty in this concentration have expertise in analytical chemistry, sensory analysis, biology of yeast and bacteria, health effects, product development and sanitation. Students who select this concentration may specialize in a variety of aspects, including microbial metabolism and genetics, chemistry and analysis of grapes, wines and winemaking adjuncts, winemaking technology and sensory analysis.