Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Member Spotlight: Natalie Oswell

Natalie Oswell
Natalie Oswell is a senior scientist in the Discovery and Open Innovation group at Kalsec in Kalamazoo, MI. She recently completed a Ph.D. in food science at the University of Georgia, where she also received a bachelor’s in food science. Her Ph.D. dissertation investigated how phosphate replacers are evaluated in meat products, but she actually gained the experience she needed for her current role outside of her dissertation work. She was working in an analytical chemistry lab performing a variety of analyses measuring food composition, quantifying specific analytes, and measuring antioxidant activity of foods and various ingredients. 

Her research experience combined with exposure and mastery of various techniques as a teaching assistant in a food analysis course enabled her to build a diverse skillset that she uses regularly in her day-to-day work. 

She is fairly new to AOCS. She got involved when she started her role at Kalsec in 2020. She has since served as a session co-chair for a joint Lipid Oxidation and Quality/Analytical session at the 2021 AOCS Annual Meeting & Expo and participated in a Young Professional Common Interest Group (YP CIG) mixer. She is excited to continue pursuing involvement with both AOCS and the YP CIG!

What excites you about your work?

As a member of our Discovery team at Kalsec, I have the opportunity to explore current research and novel compounds, technologies, and applications so I’m always learning and absorbing new things. One of the reasons I wanted to work at Kalsec is because of the people.We have a lot of experts that span across many disciplines and not only do I enjoy working with a lot of people I have a great amount of respect for, I also find it really inspiring to be surrounded by people who have the characteristics and skillsets I’m striving to develop in myself.

How do you hope or how has AOCS helped in solving challenges you encounter in your work and/or career?

AOCS does a really nice job with curating and disseminating educational materials. I’ve gotten a lot out of webinars and short courses they offer year-round. When I encounter issues at work where I have questions I can’t answer (especially if it has to do with fats or oils), AOCS is a go-to resource. I’m also looking forward to more networking with other young professionals and industry members at future AOCS meetings and events.  

Which year were you the national champion for the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) college bowl? Could you share that experience?

I got involved with IFT College Bowl as a Sophomore in college at UGA in 2013/2014. I found participating in the team to be super intimidating. I was “practicing” (answer technical food science questions) with graduate students in front of a professor. I felt like I was taking an oral exam once a week in a group setting. I was also the youngest/least educated member of the team. 

Over the years we really found a groove together, and I transitioned from undergrad to grad school. I was on the team in some capacity, starting out as a participant, slowly taking on more responsibility, and eventually running the team over a 6-year period. In 2018, our team (of which Sarah Willett, another YP CIG and AOCS member, was also a member!) was very successful, winning the national championship at the IFT annual meeting. Hands down, College Bowl was the best extracurricular I participated in during undergrad and grad school and helped me learn a ton about food science.

Natalie Oswell (center) and team at the IFT College Bowl. Sarah Willet, fellow AOCS and YP CIG member, is third from right.

Do you have any words of wisdom for other AOCS YP CIG members?

Know your worth and ask for what you want. I think confidence comes easier to some than others, but I think ultimately speaking up, sharing our opinions and letting people know what we want is only going to benefit everyone in the long run.   

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