October 16, 2002

Food Science Celebrates Centennial with Three-Day Symposium

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Cornell’s Department of Food Science commemorated its centennial anniversary Oct. 13-15 by throwing a party. The three-day celebratory symposium, entitled “Building on a Century of Excellence: Food Science at Cornell University” featured lectures by many food science experts.

The festivities kicked off on Sunday with poster presentations in Stocking Hall, followed by an overview of the past century of Food Science at Cornell by Prof. Emeritus David K. Bandler ’51, food science. “I have been involved with Cornell Food Science in one way or another for the past 50 years,” Bandler said.

“The greatest achievement of the food science department has probably been its export of graduate students,” he added. “We have alumni all over the globe.”

Monday’s events included a morning session on “Food Science in the 21st Century: Vision for the Future,” with commentary by Susan A. Henry, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Nathan Rudgers, New York state commissioner of agriculture and markets.

“Food science and the World Food Situation” was discussed by Per Pinstrup-Anderson, director general, International Food Policy Research Institute. “The Current State of the Art in Food Science” was discussed by Prof. Emeritus Pat Fox of the University College Cork, Ireland and Prof. David M. Barbano, food science.

Monday afternoon’s session featured “Improving the Quality and Safety of Food,” with Elsa A. Morano, undersectretary for food safety, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and three Cornell researchers: Prof. Robert B. Gravani, food science, Prof. Martin Wiedmann, food science, and Prof. Carl Batt, food science.

Yesterday’s final session of the symposium focused on “Delivering the Benefits of the Life Science Revolution to the Consumer” and featured discussions by Prof. Rui Hai Liu, food science; Prof. J. Bruce German of the University of California-Davis; John Finley of Kraft Inc.; Prof. Mary Schmidl of the University of Minnesota and Prof. Joseph Hotchkiss, chair of food science.

“The centennial celebration gives us a chance to honor those who worked to establish the department as a leading, internationally recognized teaching, research and outreach program,” Hotchkiss said.

“Food science deals with one of the most essential aspects of life and culture and must continue to grow and evolve. The centennial is recognition of this necessity,” he added.

The department has had several name and location changes in the past century. Its early years were as the Department of Dairy Industry, starting in 1902 when work in animal industry was divided into animal husbandry, poultry husbandry, and dairy industry, according to Bandler.

Food science was housed in East Roberts Hall from 1906 to 1923, when it moved to its current location in the newly completed Dairy Building, renamed Stocking Hall in 1947.

In 1943 the dairy-research program at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y., merged with the dairy activities at Cornell. According to Bandler, research in dairy chemistry, bacteriology and manufactured products increased during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. The department dropped the word “dairy” from its name in 1966, and replaced it with the modern term “food science.”

Today, students and professors in food science concentrate on such areas as food chemistry, food microbiology, food engineering, food packaging and food safety. And according to Bandler, “the future of food science at Cornell is doing what we have already been doing, plus looking at biotechnology to improve the food supply.”

“I see the department continuing to evolve to embrace the basic sciences more, and continuing to apply the growing knowledge in the field of nanotechnology, genomics and materials sciences to food systems,” Batt said.

100 years from now when the department celebrates its bicentennial, people will still be eating food. “I think that food will still be what it should be — a gastronomical experience of the senses, something that we enjoy from preparation to consumption,” said Batt.

Archived article by Adrianne Kroepsch