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5 Questions for a Scientist: Food Scientist Esther Sussman

The gap between the science classroom and a real-life career in the sciences can seem distant for some students. The 5 Questions for a Scientist interview series was created to bridge this gap! We aim to inspire students to pursue careers in the sciences by showcasing the incredible diversity of STEM careers by talking to scientists themselves. See all of the interviews here.


Get to know Esther

Occupation: Research Scientist in Product Development
Institution: Ferrara Candy Company
Field: Food science
Focus: Confections

Esther has her undergraduate degree in food science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and is currently working on her masters in food science through the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. During her time spent at the University of Wisconsin, Madison she participated in many product development competitions sponsored by the Institute of Food Technologists and now sits on the board for the Product Development Division within that organization. To learn more about what Esther does, contact her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/EstherSussman.

1. Explain what you do in your work in one sentence (or two!).
I work as a research scientist in the product development team at The Ferrara Candy Company where I get to formulate and create new candy.

2. When did you first become interested in your field?
Beginning around the age of 10, I used to tell my family that I wanted to work at Ben and Jerry's making new ice cream flavors. I did not realize that food science existed until applying to the University of Wisconsin, Madison. When applying, they ask for you to choose a major and I found food science in the list of majors. Once I got to school and learned more about the major, I realized it was exactly what I wanted to do. It mixed all types of science with food, two of my favorite things!

3. What is your favorite part of being a scientist or of science in general?
The best part of being a scientist is discovering new ways to make a new product, especially when it occurs by accident. There is always something new to learn each day because science is ever-evolving, so my job can never get dull! I also get to work with a wide variety of people so I am not always just in the lab. I get to meet with marketing, sales, packaging engineers, and many other people.

4. What is a typical day like for you as a scientist?
There are no typical days where I work. Each day has a different project to work on, whether it is gummy bears, fruit snacks, jelly beans, etc. Usually, I work in our lab formulating the new product and from there, run a trial to ensure that the product tastes good and looks good when it is made in our production facilities. Once the product is tested on a larger scale, taste tests and shelf-life testing occur and then the product can go out for sale. This can take anywhere from a month to over a year, depending on the complexity of the project.

5. Do you have any advice for young people interested in science today?
The best advice I have is to ask questions! Do not be concerned about asking those you have around you in any science field questions you have and for help. If you are having a problem, they most likely ran into it as well or they will know someone who has. That, in my opinion, is the best way to learn.

Image credit: ESTHER SUSSMAN
 

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