There’s a science behind every good food combination — literally. That’s exactly what Lauren Musumeci ’11 discovered the summer between her sophomore and junior years when she interned in the analytical chemistry and microbiology labs of ConAgra Foods in Cranbury, N.J. There, Musumeci mixed, smelled and tasted flavorful concoctions. Not only did the experience satisfy her taste palette, but the internship reaffirmed her dream of a career in the food sciences.
“It’s a growing industry,” explained Musumeci of Annandale, N.J., who discovered her “taste” for the field during a presentation by the National Starch Food Company at Rider her freshman year. “Eventually, I want to go into the industry, as well as research and development. I want to make seasoning and flavors to make food servings healthier, but still maintain the taste.”
Musumeci, a graduating senior Chemistry major who will walk in the Lawrenceville Undergraduate Commencement on May 13, will begin the master’s program in Food Science at Cornell University in the fall. While she was also accepted to the Pennsylvania State University and Rutgers University, she said that Cornell offered a program that focused heavily on two of her passions — chemistry and independent research. In fact, Musumeci, who will serve as a teaching assistant during her first year, has been assigned to research alongside Dr. Gavin Sacks, an assistant professor of Food Science and Technology at Cornell, who researches enological and viticultural parameters that shape wine flavor.
An Andrew J. Rider scholar, an active member of the Chemistry Honor Society and a team captain for the women’s soccer team, Musumeci said the time management and research skills she gained on and off the field at Rider will help her tremendously as she pursues her master’s.
Since she began her studies at Rider, Musumeci said her professors have stressed the importance of getting research experience. Immediately, she learned how to manage her responsibilities as a student, a forward on the soccer team and a tutor for the Chemistry department.
Because of Musumeci’s tutoring experience, Dr. Danielle Jacobs recruited Musumeci to be a mentor for Project SEED, a program that matches a high student with a Rider student conducting summer research. During summer between her junior and senior year, Musumeci began research in Jacobs’ organic chemistry lab. There, she worked with a student from Lawrence High School on research involving a new product for a pharmaceutical company. The pair ran tests on the product in order to remove certain groups to make the product less flammable and dangerous.
“I helped him learn new lab techniques that he would not get in high school,” Musumeci explained. “He was able to present their findings during at poster session at the American Chemical Society conference in Boston in August.”
This past fall, Musumeci began a new research in Jacobs’ lab, where she began synthesizing molecules that have been active against tumor cells. She used the research as part of the thesis requirement for Rider’s Baccalaureate Honors Program.
“The small size of the chemistry department has allowed me to get research experience that most undergraduates at big universities don’t get,” she said. “That experience is the most valuable thing that I will take away from my time at Rider.”