If you're interested in a career as a flavor chemist but attending a school that doesn't have a food science department, does that mean you're at a disadvantage? "Not necessarily," says Robert C. Lindsay, professor of food science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, "because chemistry underpins it all. It's hard to do anything in food science without using the language of chemistry."
Lindsay believes food science is a reasonably good survey of applied chemistry, because chemistry is viewed as one of the major three components of food science, along with microbiology and engineering. If there is no food science department on campus, Lindsay recommends that chemistry students develop a solid chemistry background while also being aware of the value of biochemistry and biology courses. The latter will give the student the tools to move into food science.
"A notable percentage of M.S. and some Ph.D. students are from colleges and universities that don't have a food science department," he says. "Food science departments love to get chemistry majors as graduate students because they already have expressed an interest and ability that is useful in the food science studies."
The Institute of Food Technologists has a list of schools with approved undergraduate food science programs, including the Universities of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, as well as Cornell University; Rutgers University; and the University of California, Davis.
The Society of Flavor Chemists has strict requirements for membership that are specified in its bylaws. To be admitted as an apprentice member, a candidate must first complete a minimum of five years of training under the direct supervision of a certified flavorist. Then he or she is interviewed, which includes an assessment of knowledge and skills. After two more years, apprentice members may apply to be reinterviewed and retested to become certified flavorists.