Hello Young, Aspiring minds,
Are you more of a “generalist” when it comes to the different scientific disciplines? Are you interested in how the diet can impact human health and longevity? Does the process of transforming raw agricultural materials into a variety of value-added food products excite you? Then the multidisciplinary degree of Nutrition and Food Science (NUFS) may be for you. As a student who began in the NUFS general program, transferred to the Food Science and Technology Specialization, and then ended up in the Honors Program, I can tell you about the similarities and differences in the programs under the NUFS umbrella at the University of Alberta, as well as my best tips for success. By the end of this article, you will understand what each program has to offer and where it could take your future career.
The NUFS general program offers courses in both human nutrition and food manufacturing and preservation. As a direct-entry program, it is a starting point for any other NUFS programs you may wish to pursue. After your first year, you can apply to one of three specializations offered at the University of Alberta. Several minors are available to students who complete the four-year general program, including Food Marketing, Human Ecology, and Nutrition Communication & Education, among others.
The Food Science and Technology specialization combines microbiology, chemistry, and engineering to teach you about food manufacturing and food safety. This degree prepares you for a career in food product development, quality assurance, and other technical and lab-based food operations.
The Honors program is a research-intensive path that prepares students for graduate studies (A Master’s and/or Ph.D.). You may major in either Nutrition or Food Science, and there are additional requirements above those of the NUFS general program.
Finally, the Dietetics specialization is the route to take if you wish to pursue a career as a Registered Dietician or Registered Nutritionist. This is a highly competitive professional program for high-achieving students interested in clinical nutrition and working with patients.
As with most first-years, you will start with some basic math & science courses, English, economics, statistics, and introductory NUFS courses. From there, depending on your major and minor, you can branch out into a variety of courses in food chemistry, microbiology, advanced nutrition, food safety and quality, fermentations, marketing, and more! Some of my personal favorites include NUFS 356 (Nutrition Across the Lifespan) and MICRB 265 (General Microbiology). Some courses are considered more difficult by many students (like Organic Chemistry I and II). It never hurts to join a study group, talk to the prof during office hours, or even hire a tutor if you are struggling.
There are a myriad of career possibilities for NUFS graduates in industry, government, and academics, depending on which program you choose and your success in that area of study. Some possibilities include:
Food products inspector
Food products sales representative
Market research analyst
Supervisor in food, beverage, and associated products processing
Tester and grader in food, beverage, and associated products processing
Tips for Success
The most important skill for any student is learning how to learn. It can be difficult to transition from “high school brain” to “university brain.” Some actionable tips I recommend implementing as early as possible are:
Get a planner/calendar and USE it. This can be an app, your Google calendar, or a physical journal - anything that will help you remember important dates like midterms, assignment due dates, and project deadlines. Go through all your course syllabi at the beginning of the semester and record these dates, so you do not have to worry about keeping track of them later.
Do not fall behind. Easier said than done, right? Unfortunately, you cannot cram 13 weeks of university into one all-nighter the night before your final exam. Do the readings, keep up with homework and assignments, and dedicate as much time as you need to ensure that you are on top of it. You may want to create a study schedule with self-imposed deadlines ahead of your actual deadlines; this creates a buffer for those times when things begin to pile up.
That said, it is equally important to allow yourself rest and leisure time. Burnout is real! Avoid getting involved in too many things at the beginning of the semester - as exciting as Week of Welcome and Clubs Fair can be, I know from personal experience that spreading yourself too thin will negatively impact you and the people you are making commitments to. Stick to one or two things you really enjoy, and make sure you are scheduling in some downtime each week.
Finally, learn to prioritize your time effectively. I tend to work on things in order of what will impact my grade the most. For example, if I have a midterm worth 25% and an assignment worth 5% due on the same day, I will spend most of my time studying for that midterm and then the rest on the assignment. This can also be tweaked depending on what you are most proficient in - if that midterm is on material you are already comfortable with, then maybe less time is needed to prepare.
These tips are applicable no matter what program you are in, and they have served me well throughout the course of my undergraduate studies thus far.
You should now have a fairly good idea of what a Nutrition & Food Science major might look like, what it takes to succeed, and where your studies can take you after graduation. Similar programs are offered at other universities across the country, so do your research and find the school and program that are right for you.