DID YOU KNOW that pickles, coffee and chocolate are fermented? So are bread, cheese and many other foods. The field of fermentation science explores the chemistry of cooking with microbes. As Nutrition and Food Sciences Department Chair Shane Broughton notes, “The U.S. is a diverse country that’s becoming more diverse every day. As this trend continues in Texas, we’ll need to meet the flavor desires of our communities through fermented foods.”
While some consumers think of alcoholic beverages when they hear the term fermentation science, others are growing savvy about its health benefits.
“A lot of people use probiotics to optimize the healthy bacteria in their large intestine,” says Danhui Wang, assistant professor of nutrition and food sciences. “Fermented foods are natural sources of probiotics because they’re made with the healthy bacteria we want to cultivate in our GI tract.”
Developing women fermentation scientists wouldn’t be a reach for TWU. As the nation’s only woman-focused university system, “we have the unique ability to train women scientists in TWU’s interprofessional, entrepreneurial-oriented environment,” says College of Health Sciences Dean Christopher T. Ray.
The expanding field of fermentation science plays to TWU’s strengths. While drawing on scientific disciplines such as biology and biochemistry, it overlaps with economics, entrepreneurship and other business fields.
TWU already has a foundation for fermentation science. “We have a microbiology lab and recently added a bioreactor,” explains Xiaofen Du, assistant professor of nutrition and food sciences. “Our facilities are growing, and we’ll continue to expand our infrastructure.” There’s an increasing trend to use fermentation technologies to produce food ingredients that many consumers like to see labeled as natural additives. These types of flavors help satisfy consumer demand for clean labels.”
TWU’s campus locations are another asset. “The growing DFW metroplex is home to a dynamic market known for its specialty stores and farmers markets selling fermented foods like artisanal cheeses and hot sauces,” says Associate Professor of Economics Gilbert Werema. “And Houston, the nation’s most diverse city, has a vibrant culinary scene contributing to a strong interest in many fermented foods.
“TWU could develop specialized courses with applied research foci to address industry challenges, improve production processes and develop new production innovations,” Werema continues. “The possibilities are truly endless.”
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