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The Field of Food Science and Technology offers MS and PhD degrees in Food Science with the following concentrations. Click on the concentrations below to learn more.

Advanced studies in food science (general) provide a broader, more varied education than is possible in the other concentrations. Students who select this concentration should have some previous experience in food science and technology.

Students in food science (general) are expected to take courses in food chemistry, food engineering and processing, food microbiology, nutrition, and food marketing as well as in the supporting disciplines and commodity areas in their special interests.

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.

Students of food chemistry must have a strong background in the basic sciences and should specialize in one or more of the following minor areas: organic chemistry, biochemistry, nutritional biochemistry, physical chemistry, toxicology, analytical chemistry, and chemical engineering.

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.

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.

Students who specialize in food microbiology are expected to have sound undergraduate training in microbiology, physics, chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry.

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.

Food engineering students gain a thorough understanding of thermodynamics, reaction kinetics, and transport phenomena applied to food processes. Knowledge of computer programming, microprocessor applications, statistics, and engineering economics is encouraged. Courses are available in thermal processing and other unit operations, physical and engineering properties of foods, rheology, and food packaging.

Students in food engineering should consider taking related courses in one of the engineering departments and should select a professor in one of those departments to serve on their Special Committee.

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.

Food toxicology is the study of adverse effects of compounds found in food, on living organisms.  With the increasing national and international threat on chemical food safety due to environmental contamination, toxin-producing microbial contamination, process-induced toxicants, packaging migrants, and adulteration, knowledge of food toxicology is in increasing demand in the food industry as well as in regulatory agencies.  It is important to understand the toxicological mechanisms, functional effects, dose-response relationship to be able to assess the ‘true’ risk a toxic chemical poses to human health at a certain concentration.   

Students who specialize in food toxicology are expected to have solid undergraduate training in biology, biochemistry, and physiology. 

Opportunities for research projects in food toxicology include effects of endocrine disruptors found in food on reproductive, developmental, and metabolic systems; natural bioactive compounds and free radicals in aging and carcinogenesis; effects of naturally occurring feed toxicants on animal metabolism; neurobehavioral teratology and toxicology; and protein modification and encapsulation platforms

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.

Cornell has a long tradition of excellence in dairy science. Cornell and the University of Vermont jointly administer the Northeast Dairy Foods Research Center (NEDFRC), which is funded by the National Dairy Board and local dairy industries. Scientists from both universities participate in joint research and technology activities related to dairy foods. The NEDFRC offers outstanding opportunities for graduate students to participate in top-quality research and development in dairy foods.

Prior training in dairy or food science and technology is desirable but not essential. Students of dairy science may choose courses in food science, dairy chemistry, microbiology, chemistry, and biochemistry.

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.

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.

A background in biology, microbiology, chemistry, food science and technology, or environmental science provides a good base for graduate study in food processing waste technology. Students should structure their graduate programs to expand their knowledge in microbiology, biochemistry, analytical chemistry, engineering, and applicable environmental or other sciences.

International food science was established at Cornell in recognition of the need for technically trained people in careers involving the production of new and more nutritious foods, the improvement of food preservation techniques for developing countries, and the organization, implementation, and administration of food development programs.

International food science encompasses all phases of the development of foods, including technology, preservation, nutrient composition, safety, new product development, marketing, and project planning. Actual and potential problems of developing countries are studied, and whenever feasible and appropriate, students in international food science may conduct their research in a developing country.

Students who choose this area of concentration are expected to take courses in international agriculture, postharvest handling and physiology of foods, international nutrition, international economic development, international law, communications for developing countries, and food processing.

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.

Like other quantitative disciplines, sensory evaluation attempts to provide precise and accurate measurements. Yet, because the data are collected from human beings, who are notoriously variable, sensory evaluation studies pose a special challenge, and statistical techniques are necessary. Basic principles of human judgment and perception are also important, and students are encouraged to take courses in the behavioral sciences. Cornell offers a unique range of courses and research opportunities in sensory evaluation.

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. Because of the multidisciplinary nature of Enology, this concentration is suitable for students interested in M.S. or Ph.D. degrees seeking careers in academia, industry and government in areas related to Enology as well as in any areas related to food and industrial fermentations.

Enology students should have a background in microbiology, organic chemistry or biochemistry, sensory science or engineering. Prior exposure to winemaking is highly desirable but not required.

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.