I started working at the Food Science Pilot plant and Integrated Biology research lab my second semester of my freshman year. I first toured the facilities as part as an onboarding class in the fall, and knew I wanted to secure an internship at the plant. At the time, IBRL was still in the process of being built, but the Pilot plant really interested me in the way it transformed food from the university’s farm to the dining hall. This experience would be one of a kind and I wanted to get involved.
One of my favorite projects is making tomato sauce. The tomatoes are grown locally at the student sustainable farm, so the first step is to drive over and pick them up. We get to see the farm and other students working together to have a better food source for campus. Then we wash and process the tomatoes into pizza sauce. Lastly, we package the sauce into boxes and send it out for the campus students to enjoy. There are times we even make deliveries to the dining halls and talk to the chefs. This process is really unique because we get the product from start to finish. This helps me understand the communication and team-work needed for a food supply chain.
Working at IBRL is different every day. Some days we are designing and welding parts, while other days we can be working on a pretreatment reactor. I have learned so much more about agricultural processing from my experiences at IBRL. One of my favorite projects at IBRL was making corn starch from corn stillage. Through this process we worked with a Sweco and Doxie 5 to separate proteins and starches. This was a different process then what I was used to working with at the Food Science pilot plant, but it was still interesting to see how some agricultural products are made.
Having an internship at the Food Science Pilot Plant and Integrated Bioprocessing Research Lab has been a fun and rewarding experience. While it is hard work, I have learned more at this internship then any class could have taught me. I highly recommend it for the experiences and the people.