On Saturday April 11th, Chapman’s Food Science Program had the pleasure of hosting an interactive educational experience for Girls Inc! High school students from different regions were brought to Chapman University to learn about Food Science thanks to the collaboration between FSNSA and Girls Inc female leaders Christie Pearce, Amanda Perl and Cathleen Chase. The girls were actively engaged in all aspects of the event all the way through an information session on college admission. It was great to see how excited the students were to learn about scientific principles behind ice cream, our taste perception and making gummy balls! In addition, the girls that attended asked insightful questions to gain a deeper understanding of the science as well as the application process. I have no doubt these young women will become successful professionals in any career they choose! Read more about the specific demonstrations as well as thoughts by FSNSA members involved with the workshops below!
To start us off, the organizer of the event, Dawn Kane, gave a very informative presentation about what food science is all about. A brief description of the many, wonderful fields of food science were described which sparked the interest of all the girls! After a short question and answer period, the girls were divided into four groups and were sent off to the various classrooms to get some hands on food science experience!
The demo led by Emma Gottschall focused on sensory science. The girls were first asked to try two samples of colored seltzer, one purple and one pink. Without any hints about the flavors most girls believed the purple sample tasted like grape, while there was a mixed consensus about the pink drink. The girls were surprised to learn that the purple juice was actually strawberry-kiwi! While most people assume that taste is the only impact on how we perceive flavor, the girls learned that your expectations also have a huge impact on how a food tastes. While some attributes like color or size can be controlled in sensory testing, other factors cannot be controlled. Emma took the demonstration one step further to help the girls understand the role of genetics in taste. Participants were given PTC strips containing phenylthiocarbamide. When tasting PTC, approximately 75% of the population perceive a highly bitter taste based on a specific gene. The remainder of the population perceive a slight bitter taste or none at all. Emma said “The girls were extremely interested in learning about the science behind sensory testing as well as what it’s like to be a taste tester. After all, who wouldn't love to get paid to eat?!”
Another demo was led by Sabrina Davis and focused on pigments from red cabbage! Sabrina said “The girls enjoyed seeing the changing colors of cabbage extract, from purple to red and from red to blue!” Extracts from the cabbage can be used as a pH indicator. The pigment that gives the vegetable its color is called anthocyanin which undergoes a color change under acidic and basic conditions. The demo showed the process of extraction of the cabbage pigments, as well as the solutions that change its color!
In this demo Akanksha Jain is educating the girls on how aliginate, a substance from algae, can be used to form gummies! In the photo above, Logan Kane represents a “calcium ion” which is required for the alginate to form a gel network and produce a gummy!
In another demo on Microbiology, led by Sophia Pollack, the girls got a chance to look at E.coli and Bacillus sp. which are two common causes of food borne Illness. They saw a penicillin slide and were told about the history of antibiotics and how penicillin was accodently discovered by Alexander Flemming, and they looked at Euglena, a common protist found in fresh and salt water (not pathogenic). Next the girls Learned the acronym FAT TOM to remember the requirements needed for growth of microbes. We finished up by a discussion on how to prevent microbial growth in food using hurdle technology and safe handling practices.
As the eventful day came to a close, the girls heard from a representative of Chapman to learn about the application process, majors offered and how standardized testing scores are used. After learning about what it takes to get into Chapman, the girls were given a tour around campus before heading back home with newfound knowledge in Food Science!
It was also great to see that a current FSNSA volunteer, Katrina Jully, could personally relate to Girls Inc. Katrina said “I had the opportunity to be a part of Girls Inc back when I was in middle school. So for me to be a part of it again, but as a “team leader,” was a wonderful way to complete the circle. I am so glad to see that Girls Inc has grown over the years and continues to be a wonderful organization that supports the development of girls into strong, bold, and confident women.”
It was a great event and we look forward to continuing the tradition of educating young minds! If you want to know more about the chemistry behind these experiments, or just food science in general, follow our blog, e-mail the Food Science Program Assistant Sonja Montiel (firstname.lastname@example.org), or join the Food Science and Student Nutrition Association (FSNSA)!
Thanks for reading!