Imaginative Teaching Resources & Inspirational Career Ideas from the Chilled Food Industry
Karen Han Heng Pew is a Nutrition and Food Science graduate, she spoke to us in 2011.
When do you first become interested in Food Science?
I have always been interested in food and undertaking a food science degree was a natural decision.
If applicable did you choose specific A Levels because of your interest?
I was aware that science subjects offered more opportunities and since I wanted to work in the food industry, I was keen to undertake specific subjects to have a head start.
Did you have a career goal in mind when you applied for University?
I had various ideas but no concrete ideas – from nutritionist to food developer and even lecturer!
The university staff and tutors helped me see the possible career paths. By getting more knowledge and exposure into the food industry, I could make an informed decision.
What made you choose Nottingham University?
My decision was based on the reputation and academic excellence of the university. The Nutrition & Food Science course that the University of Nottingham was offering, best suited my aspirations – I had the opportunity to study about food, health, science and technology at the same time. The friendly and community-based campuses were also important. I could have the social and academic support I need to have a great university life. I did take time to consider my options and Nottingham was my first choice.
How did you find the degree course, was it what you expected, was it hard,
what was most interesting?
The course was well-structured and the first year helped me settle into the university routine. The lectures were intensive and it was sometimes difficult to keep constant focus when I’ve had a full day. The academic staffs were approachable and it was easy to seek their advice on courseworks and lecture notes. I liked the interactive sessions like group projects or laboratory experiments most. It was a chance to socialise with other course-mates and also expand my understanding of the subject. For instance, when my team had to develop and present a pancake proposal, we had to understand the cost, marketing, packaging, feasibility and safety of our product to be successful. I was glad that I chose a Nutrition and Food Science degree because I gained a strong foundation in both subjects and can better understand their interaction in the food industry.
What is it like being a student at Nottingham University?
The University of Nottingham is very cosmopolitan, with various campuses, even in Malaysia and China. There is a great atmosphere and the university is always buzzing with activity – sports, dances, arts, volunteering…From learning a new language to raising money for charity, the university offers many opportunities. It also maintains strong ties with the community, which makes me proud to be a student there. Living on campus definitely has its advantages because it is at the heart of all events.
What work placements did you go on? What were they like, what did you do?
My placement was different to my friends. I was working at an international consumer goods company, in the biochemistry laboratory. My work involved food ingredients that could influence skin health. I gained an insight into the life of a scientist and how scientific knowledge could be applied to the food industry. Every day was a chance to discover more and improve my technical skills. The projects I was involved with included cultivating skin cells!
How have you found job hunting in the Food Sector?
Finding a job at this time is as difficult as in any other industry. In the food industry though, there are various opportunities. I had to try hard and had some guidance from the university.
What does your job involve? Is it fun, interesting?
My job as a specifications technologist can be quite challenging. I work in the chilled division, e.g. salads and sandwiches, where the pace of work is fast. There is always something happening, from new product launches, to packaging changes or some food crisis. I get great satisfaction from my contribution in putting a salad on the supermarket shelves. My role is to collate the information on a product and create the label. So the ingredients, nutrition or allergens that you see on a sandwich pack could have been generated by me! I have a lot of interaction with our suppliers to make sure that the quality and safety information we have are updated. The main challenge is to meet the customers’ demands, but with help and support from my colleagues, I have always enjoyed the work.
What are your long term career plans?
I would like to continue in the food industry definitely! I am trying to learn as much as I can both within my job and from my colleagues across departments. I hope to gain a better understanding of how a food company becomes successful and in this way climb the work ladder.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about Food Science as a career?
To learn more about the food industry – there are so many opportunities! Talk to teachers and attend events like talks, insight days, summer schools…I volunteered at the University of Nottingham Food Science summer school and wished I had such exposure before. These activities are fun and will help you to choose subjects, grades and universities.