Food Science

Department web site:

See our Sensory Service Center site. 

Food science is the application of science and technology to produce safe, nutritious and appealing food products from agricultural commodities. The mission of the Department of Food Science is to be the primary source of food science higher education, research and public service for the state of Arkansas. The department has research programs that are recognized for excellence at the regional, national and international levels, while also contributing to advancing the quality of life and professional development of Arkansans. 
The department is well known for accomplishments in fruit and vegetable processing, quality and biochemistry. Research has taken a "systems approach" to investigate the effect of pre-harvest, post-harvest storage and processing conditions on food quality. This work has provided a fundamental understanding of flavor, texture and color of raw and processed products. Collaboration with our sensory science program has further added to the impact of these studies. More recently, research has expanded into the measurement and the role of nutraceuticals from fruit and vegetables that may play a key role in maintaining human health. 
Food chemistry research is being conducted on agronomic crops such as soy and rice. These include studies of starch structure and properties of raw and processed foods and starch interaction with other food constituents. In addition, studies of lipid chemistry that affects food quality and the development of rapid methods to measure and control adverse lipid reactions are being investigated. Protein chemistry projects on rice and soy proteins are investigating maintenance of food quality and development of new products. A key component of these efforts is development of new food and non-food value-added products from agricultural co-products. 
Food engineers in the department are investigating rice quality measurement and control of pre-harvest and post-harvest conditions that affect quality. There is special focus on rice drying and milling as being key processing stages that affect quality. More specifically, mathematical modeling of rice drying and its role in kernel fissuring and phase transitions is being studied. Rice storage strategies to improve rice quality are also an important part of the program. Other engineering activities include non-destructive sensors in food processing systems and corn processing. 
Food safety and microbiology is an overriding consideration affecting all technical and legal aspects of food science. Rapid methods to detect pathogens are being developed using monoclonal antibodies and techniques to destroy pathogens by thermal, chemical and biochemical means. 
The department's sensory science program and sensory panel are in much demand by not only departmental faculty developing new value added products, but also national and international food industries. This expertise includes human and instrumental methods to evaluate sensory and texture characteristics.
Nutrition research efforts focus on dietary effect of vitamins and minerals on metabolism, health and bone strength. The effect of nutrition on growth during the teenage years and disease risk is also being studied.