The University of Massachusetts Amherst Department of Food Science has been awarded a five-year, $482,549 grant to fund an experiential learning program for undergraduates, including independent research opportunities with faculty mentors and paid summer internships with industrial partners in the greater Boston area.
UMass Amherst’s Food Science Undergraduate Experiential Learning (FUEL) Scholars program received one of 26 grants totaling $11.6 million from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s education and workforce development effort, the yearlong UMass Amherst program is designed to prepare students for a career in food science.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics foresees a demand for 3,100 additional food scientists in the 10-year period ending in 2026, based on a predicted 7% growth in the related job market. “The UMass FUEL program will provide students with knowledge in both fundamental and applied food science, as well as experiential learning, and will train graduates for a successful transition into the food industry,” says Lynne McLandsborough, professor and undergraduate program director. McLandsborough will implement the program, along with co-principal investigators Eric Decker, professor and head of food science, and Matthew Moore, assistant professor.
“These hands-on educational experiences offer both research and extension training that will lead to a well-prepared and modern workforce that can fill expected gaps in the country’s food, agriculture and related industries,” NIFA states in announcing the grants.
At UMass Amherst, which has the oldest academic food science department in the country, undergraduate students will be recruited by the FUEL Scholars initiative. They will develop professional skills and complete lab experience before their summer internship with a small to mid-size food company in the Boston area. The student interns will be housed at the Mount Ida Campus during their internship and will receive a stipend.
For the first five years, the costs will be covered by the grant. “One goal of the project is to become financially self-sufficient,” McLandsborough says. “If the program is successful, the internship costs will shift to the industrial partners as the program progresses.”