Hands-on Learning Aids Tech Transfer

Rebecca Robertson | Faculty of Land and Food Systems | UBC

Rebecca Robertson

Rebecca Robertson draws on her longtime knowledge of food companies to find “win-win” placements for Master of Food Science (MFS) students.

“I connect with a lot of companies to develop experiential learning for students in their interest area while providing technology transfer for the host company,” says Robertson, industry liaison for the Food, Nutrition and Health (FNH) program.

Robertson helps to find industry partners for students’ four-month industry practicum in the Master of Food Science program. She monitors as many as 17 concurrent projects with partners as diverse as Superior Tofu and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

At the Vancouver Aquarium, for example, MFS students are currently helping the staff and scientists devise clear systems for handling animal feed from fruit for birds to krill – a mini shrimp favoured by whales, dolphins and other fin fish. Students learn that food safety tenets hold true whether for humans or animals.

“They are the same principles: know the integrity of the supplier, store the feed under the right conditions and prepare it in a way to keep its nutritional quality,” explains Robertson, a UBC microbiology alumna and industry consultant and educator for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP).

Last summer, Robertson brought a team of MFS students to UBC Farm to enhance food safety practices for the weekly Saturday Farm Market. The team devised clear plans for several post-harvest procedures, from the water temperature to rinse a freshly laid egg to the storage of just-picked vegetables.

“They were really interested to discover, for example, that tomatoes really don’t like refrigeration, but if you have to put them in the fridge, the temperature should ideally be no less than 10 degrees Celsius.”

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