For my STEP Signature Project, I attended the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) 2017 Annual Food Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. While attending the Expo, I had the opportunity to network with nearly 20,000 food scientists from over 90 countries, attend food science leadership sessions, and even received contacts for several companies who were interested in hiring me as an intern or full time employee in the upcoming years. While out west, I also had to opportunity to travel to, and experience the astonishing sights of the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam.
It is truly amazing how much your life can change in such a short period of time. My STEP Signature Project lasted only five days, but I came home feeling like completely different person. I discovered the never ending possibilities available to me in the field of food science, earned a deeper appreciation for the life I have lived and the incredible opportunities I have had, and gained a new respect for the simplicity of the nature around me. In just five days, I transformed into an enhanced version of my already existing self – I am confident, grateful, optimistic and more appreciative of the people who opened doors and helped me become the person I am today.
I always heard that the Grand Canyon was a breathtaking site. Sure, it has always been a site that I wanted to see, experience, and learn about, but I never imagined that it would actually take my breath away. Crazy enough, it did. My mom always joked that she could never get more than two words in a conversation if I was in the room; and she was right. I always have something to say – that is, until I went to the Grand Canyon. Upon arrival, my jaw dropped, and I failed to say more than twenty words on the entire three-hour tour. I looked out over the Canyon in awe, silently taking the whole scene in. The river running through the Canyon, the rock walls with indistinguishable ends, the blue sky, and the shadows left by the clouds, somehow making the scene even more beautiful; it was truly incredible.
The beauty of this site had a large impact on the way I view the world. The nature and landscape around us is beautiful, and it is our responsibility to keep it that way. This appreciation made me want to be more sustainable in my everyday endeavors, and it is something I want to carry with me throughout my career. I want to bring sustainability and “zero” waste options into my home and workplace. So many things in our world are far from perfect; even so, if we are able to take care of our planet, we will always be able to find perfection in the nature around us. These magnificent natural landmarks give me a more optimistic view on life; even as I go through this whirlwind of life, I am able to find a calmness in the landscape around me.
My next stop was the Hoover Dam. While this site did not render me speechless, it was tremendously eye opening. I never truly realized the significance of this Dam both in America’s history, and the role it plays today. During the Great Depression, over 20,000 men packed up everything they owned and moved with their families to the site of the Hoover Dam. They moved because they needed work; they needed money to survive. They began a new life style, working a dangerous job where they were lucky to bring home five dollars a day to support themselves and their families. These laborers knew that this threatening job may take their lives, but this daily five-dollar wage kept them going. I truly have a greater appreciation for the opportunities I have had, and the people who helped me get where I am today after seeing this Dam and learning all about the hard work that went into its construction.
My parents did not have to move clear across the country to work a precarious job to support me. I am able to attend college and obtain a degree in a field I love, and this degree will allow me to live comfortably throughout my life. I not only gained this greater appreciation for the ease of my life in comparison to those who lived ninety years ago, but I was also able to physically see how much of an impact someone can have on the generations that come after them. These 21,000 men built a dam that not only helped them to survive, but it brought power and water to the neighboring land for generations to come. People can now live in the desert of Arizona and Nevada because there is water to drink, and the treacherous flooding of the Colorado River is no longer a life threatening concern. It is now a habitable area that serves as a home for many Americans, all thanks to the sacrifices and hard work of these men. These brave men inspired me. I want to make a difference in the lives of many, just as they have. I want to help fight hunger, create new foods that are easier on our bodies, or even produce foods that help to prevent or treat cancer. I know that with the help of others, I will be able to make a difference that has a lasting effect on many generations to come.
These first two sites were truly amazing and had a wonderful impact on me, but the insight I gained on behalf of my future career at the IFT 2017 Annual Food Expo was just as – if not more – extraordinary. I knew that the food industry was an ever growing field – because of course, everyone has to eat – but I never apprehended how many opportunities were open to me as a food scientist. New areas of food – like natural – are emerging, and the opportunities do not stop on the research side. I do have the ability to conduct research and produce new products, but I also have to capability to become a quality or plant manager in any food facility, an auditor, a sensory specialist, travel as supply quality personnel, the list of careers in the food industry goes on and on. Not only can I work in the food industry, but with the ever growing importance of feeding the increasing population, I learned that I could have the opportunity to teach food science in a middle school, or high school setting. Doors are continuing to open, and the excitement of trying something new fills me each and everyday.
Speaking with food professionals from around the world was staggering. In the three days I was there for the Expo, I had many people in the industry collecting my contact information, hoping that I will become potential intern or full time employee in the upcoming years. Whether or not I will work for these companies in the future is up in the air, but one thing is for sure: I am excited to stay in contact with each of them. I am anxious to continue learning about what each of them do in their specific position in the company, as well as share with them my experiences at Ohio State, and what I begin do in the workplace.
These five days had a life changing impact on me. I learned that I can do anything. I can make a difference today that will have a lasting effect on those who live one-hundred years from now. I can be the reason that our earth remains healthy and beautiful. I can be the reason that future generations are able to beat cancer. I can be the one who gives the opportunity of a lifetime to a fifteen-year-old. Over the course of just five days, I was transformed. I became a person who whole-heartedly believes that she has the ability to do anything; something I never thought possible before. Everyone deserves to have an eye-opening experience that opens many doors to their future. I am proud to say that thanks to STEP, I have had that experience, and thousands of doors opened right before my eyes.
Grand Canyon West Rim. June 24, 2017
Inside the walls of the Hoover Dam. June 24, 2017
IFT 2017 Annual Food Expo. Ohio State Alumni and Friends Event. June 26, 2017