Students competed virtually and placed 2nd among 31 teams across the country for the first time
Image Credit: University of Maryland
Three students from the University of Maryland’s (UMD) Food Science Club reached new heights at the national Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) College Bowl competition, winning the regionals and placing second nationally for the first time. The IFT College Bowl tests student knowledge in areas like food science and technology, the history of foods and food processing, food law, and other food-related trivia. Students first compete within one of eight regions across the country, with winners coming together to compete on the national stage in this bracket-style competition akin to the March Madness of food science. With UMD’s regional victory and national success, the competition shines a light on the Food Science Club and program at UMD.
“I really feel proud of our students that they can bring our program and university to the limelight,” says Abani Pradhan, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science (NFSC) at UMD, and faculty advisor to the Food Science Club. “We had a wonderful combination of experienced, energetic, smart, and hard-working young food scientists on our winning team. We’ve had teams participating in the College Bowl for years, but have never to my knowledge won the regionals before or been the runner-up in the national competition. I couldn’t be more proud of their success.”
IFT is a professional society that provides a platform for food scientists and food technologists across all sectors related to food safety, security, and sustainability to come together and make impacts in the field. They have been hosting the College Bowl since 1985 as an opportunity for students from different universities and programs to network and engage in a friendly trivia-style competition.
This year, the UMD College Bowl team consisted of just three students, one person shy of a full team, which speaks to their expertise and performance even more. Led by Stratton Wimsatt, team captain and graduate student in NFSC, the team beat out North Carolina State University, Virginia Tech, and University of Delaware to win the virtual regional competition in March. Then, they advanced to the national competition, winning in preliminary rounds on July 17, 2021 to compete in the finals on July 20, 2021. Here, they beat out Ohio State University to place second, losing only to Cornell University as the champions.
“The regional championship was a major highlight of my time as a Terp,” says Wimsatt. “Since I joined the team in 2018, UMD hasn't made it past regionals. Finishing second nationally was an entirely different level though. It came with an outpouring of support from family, faculty, and friends from previous years' teams. Making it as far as we did and being able to represent UMD on the national stage in my last year to compete is something I'll carry with me for life.”
In addition to Wimsatt, Andrea Gilbert brought substantial leadership and experience to the team, as a doctoral student in NFSC who has participated in the College Bowl competition in varying roles since 2012, often as captain. Gilbert completed both her undergraduate and graduate work in the department as well, and has been active in the Food Science Club throughout that time.
“This was the best UMD has ever performed in the College Bowl and the first time we've won the regional competition - I couldn't believe it,” says Gilbert. “Maryland does not have as large a program as the more frequent winners, but we're special. Winning regionals allowed us to showcase that to IFT.”
To round out the team, Abraham Moses Montemayor was an entirely new teammate, also a graduate student in NFSC and a Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CW2) in the Army Veterinary Corps.
“This was my first competition, so I was not sure what to expect,” says Montemayor. “Both competitions happened so fast, but in hindsight, our victories show that the team worked well together. We had outstanding leadership from our captain and support from Dr. Pradhan and Dr. [Rohan] Tikekar. It also speaks volumes about the rigor and quality of the subjects taught within the Food Science program.”
“One of our strengths this year was that the three of us were strong in different areas,” adds Wimsatt. “I felt I had a strong grasp on more of the food chemistry questions, Andrea excelled in food safety and microbiology, and Abraham was our regulatory expert.”
Pradhan has been the faculty advisor for the Food Science Club since 2012, which organizes guest speakers, community outreach and social events, and provides opportunities for career and professional development to those in NFSC. The Food Science Club plans to continue competing in the IFT College Bowl, while also supporting other IFT student competitions such as the IFTSA & Mars Product Development Competition.
“The UMD Food Science Club is an excellent way to network with peers, get to know the faculty, and build relationships with other professionals, not only in academia, but in industry as well,” says Montemayor.
Support for the Food Science Club and its victory was felt all across NFSC and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, taking pride in the attention this brings to the program, college, and university.
“All our faculty, staff, and students are very proud of Stratton, Andrea, and Abraham for placing at the national competition,” says Cheng-i Wei, NFSC department chair. “As the UMD College Bowl representatives, they, for the first time, became the regional champions and represented the IFTSA Central Atlantic Region for national competition. I was watching the competition the whole time, and it was great to witness them place second nationally. Congratulations to the students for their achievement, and thanks to Dr. Abani Pradhan for his years of service as the advisor of the Food Science Club.”
To learn more about the Food Science Club, follow them on social media or keep up with events more here: https://nfsc.umd.edu/undergraduate/student-clubs-and-organizations/food-science-club.