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Abbey The Food Scientist

Making Food Science Fun!

What is Food Science? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s the use of chemistry, biology, and other sciences to study the basic elements of food and solve problems associated with the many sides of the food system. If that still doesn’t make sense, that’s okay. Abbey, the Food Scientist, is here to help. 

Abbey Thiel, BS ‘14 & Ph.D. ‘20 had been working on her dissertation during the March 2020 initial COVID lockdown. Going stir-crazy in her small apartment, she finally took the plunge to create videos revolving around food science. 

Born and raised in Wisconsin, going to UW-Madison had been an obvious choice for her. The only problem was she didn’t know what to major in. After some prodding from her parents, she was initially admitted into the School of Engineering. Thiel knew that wasn’t what she wanted to do, so she tediously scrolled through every science major the university offered. Eventually, she found Food Science and had no idea it existed or was a career possibility. After meeting with one of our food science professors, she decided she loved the combination of scientific disciplines that revolved around food. 

For many people, graduate school is an entirely different world. For Thiel, graduate school was “more difficult to tell if you’re making progress and research proceeds slowly.” However, once she got the hang of it, it was “much easier to live with.” After graduating, Thiel was offered a position as a postdoctoral researcher in the Food Quality and Design Group at Wageningen University in The Netherlands.

Abbey the Food Scientist’s videos are colorful and explanatory. From “Why does carbonated water burn your throat?” to “Global warming is changing your morning coffee,” these videos always have some aspect that affects the everyday person. Her future plans for the videos are to incorporate science experiments and “sneak in some education.” She’s the next generation of Bill Nye, the Science guy. Recently, Thiel released her first co-edited book called “Careers in Food Science: From Undergraduate to Professional,” which is a student’s guide to food science.

When asked what food science is, Thiel likes to say, “Food science encompasses everything from growing the food at the farm or in the field to harvesting, processing, packaging, and getting the food to the grocery store shelf. Basically, everything that happens before food is eaten.” 

All in all, food science is the backbone of everything we consume, whether it’s good or bad for the body or the environment. Abbey, the Food Scientist, is here to help us understand the science behind our food so we can make informed choices and have fun learning about Food Science.