Career Connections


Abigail Sparks

Major: Food Science



Year: Junior
Hometown/State: Iowa City, Iowa

Company/Organization: Newly Weds Foods
Company/Organization website: http://www.newlywedsfoods.com/
Title: Research and Development Intern
Destination: Chicago, IL
Timeframe: June 11th 2015- August 14th, 2015

Advisor/Coordinator Email: kgilbert@iastate.edu

I was responsible for...
In my internship I had a total of three projects to balance; two product development projects and an ingredient functionality research project. The product development projects were for an on-going company project using encrusting technology. Ultimately the products would be frozen and microwaved or baked-back. In my research project I tested various kinds of gums, starches, and fibers in yeast-leavened bread dough to see which one(s) could prevent the rolls from drying out upon microwave heating.

I accomplished...
For my research project I was able to determine that one gum and a couple of different starches could be incorporated into frozen bakery products to prevent dryness and toughness upon microwaving. I oversaw the product development process from ideation to pilot plant scale-up for both of my products. I worked with Marketing, Culinary, Sales, and other scientist to improve these products during the process. Even some of the higher-ups enjoyed the products!

My most valuable effort...
The product development project was the most valuable project for multiple reasons. I had only read about the process; this time I got to participate in most of the early-on stages of product development. I was independent in my decision making but always had a mentor or two available for help. I felt that I had a lot of ownership over this particular project, and even beyond this internship its a project I can truly be proud of.

I learned...
What happens in agriculture will always impact what happens in the R&D labs. One of my fellow interns this summer had an egg-replacement project. Even though this was pre-determined much earlier in the year, it became a bigger issue once the Avian Flu hit. I reflected the lack of eggs in my own projects; "if I didn't have to add eggs, I wouldn't!" These internships are always, always relevant to what is occurring in the company and the industry as a whole.

I will never forget...
Being a part of the meeting with culinary, marketing, sales, and the scientists all together to discuss the different encrusted products that have been developed using this new technology. It was cool to learn how different departments find the pros and cons of each product and determine how the product MIGHT sell in the market place.

A surprising discovery...
Scientists and hourly employees are always rotating through different departments with different focuses. There is a lot of internal scientist turnover. It isn't because someone is unhappy with their current job, though, it's because they want to try something new! Even beyond graduation, beyond masters degrees, there is still a desire to learn, gain experience, and be a better employee because of it.

Advice for others...
There are trying days; there will be days where you're running around like crazy (metaphorically) trying to get everything on your to-do list checked off, as well as days where you hit a writer's block or things don't seem to go the way you want them to (your boss is unavailable, a machine is broken, ect.) Remember to take these days in stride. If you need help ASK FOR IT! Also, being that you are working for a food company, do not be afraid to try new foods :)

I first learned about this career-building experience from...
I first met Deb Polcyn and Tom Kubica at College of Agriculture Career Fair my freshman year. Through activities with the Food Science Club, External Advisory Committee, and consecutive career fairs, I was able to keep them up to date with everything that I was doing. I had known about their internship program for a long time.

I landed this assignment by...
I met with Deb Polcyn on campus for an interview outside of the career fair and was immediately offered the internship.

I wanted this experience because...
This was a company I had admired for a long time because they are connected with nearly every company within the food industry; human, pet, and beyond. I wanted to have projects related to research & development because I wanted to expand my industry experience beyond processing and quality assurance

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