I've been in the department for approximately 25 years. I do research and extension work, but the bulk of what I do is teaching. That has always been my first love.
I did a bachelor of science in biochemistry at the University of Guelph, then a bachelor of arts in French language, then moved into the master's program, then transferred directly to a PhD in food science at Guelph.
I'd always wanted to know the composition of food and how chemical analysis is done. How do you get the values that we have on a nutritional label? The biochemistry degree helped tell me the how, and when I studied food science I started to understand the why.
I am Catholic, and a lot of the sacraments are associated with food. The bread and wine of the Eucharist turns into the body and blood of Christ. The sacrament of confirmation uses olive oil. So I was always fascinated by the mystery that surrounds food.
People say to me, "You believe in the consecration, but as a food scientist you know that chemically that cannot be." I say I'm a scientist, yes, but as a person I truly believe. There's a duality to who I am, and that's what I tell my students: it's okay to have a duality in yourself and it's okay to ask questions.
As part of my extension work, I travelled with World Vision to Mali on a humanitarian crisis intervention to help alleviate malnutrition and famine. Was there food there that was under-exploited and could be used as a stopgap measure before the aid came in? Was there anything they could incorporate into what little food they had to make it more nutrient-dense?
The people have millet, a carbohydrate source, but they have no protein to add to it. Their animals had died, so they don't have much livestock. But the drumstick tree has edible leaves that are very high in protein.
I was glad to use my food science background for humanitarian work. Even in a small way, I could look at food security, the politics behind food, the geographical ramifications, and find a solution to a problem.