Learning through Engagement and Discovery

Chemistry class offered in HTM building


HTM chemistry student working in the lab with the book “Experimental Food” in the foreground

Learning the science behind food techniques — what makes beef tender, why food browns when it cooks, etc. — is the focus of a new, “Food Chemistry” class taught by Associate Professor of Chemistry Kay Rowberg.  “The food service industry is a competitive field that’s becoming more technical and cross-disciplinary,” said Geralyn Farley, HTM coordinator.  “Professor Rowberg approached us about offering the course after seeing a strong interest in offering food science courses by universities (including Harvard) and noting that Purdue Calumet has a state-of-the-art food preparation kitchen for student use.”

In Rowberg’s class, students learn how culinary science is being applied in the food industry to create delicious and memorable flavors for food service operations.

Everything taught involves some kind of chemistry.

The course includes learning about conditions and processes that affect color, flavor, texture, nutrition and safety of food. Students are given a role in the learning experience through group discussions and independent projects related to real world problems associated with the food industry.

HTM chemistry student color-matching food color
HTM chemistry student color-matching food color

A recent class found 15 students measuring, melting, tasting and taking notes in the HTM lab, while observing various types of cheeses and their resulting consistency after the heating process. Six student groups learned which were best to use for sauces, dips, etc., a valuable skill in the kitchen

Majors other than HTM also involved

The course is open to all majors as a science lab offering.

Professor Rowberg working with chemistry students

“I needed a science class, and I’m usually not good at science, but I‘m doing well in this class,” said Purdue Calumet senior Ryan Beach, who is majoring in Broadcast Communication. “I like food and I’m interested in food chemistry, so I felt this class would be a good experience. I love it – it’s one of my best classes.”

Purdue Calumet accounting major Marie Pritchard agreed, as she melted cream cheese with Beach, her lab partner. “This is a General Ed class for me. I’ve done a lot of cooking over the years, but never thought about the science behind what I did,” she said. “I like our (class) experiments and lectures….. and finding out about the science behind the cook.”