Nielsen has new recipe for
|Suzanne Nielsen is the new head of the Department of Food Science, replacing Phil Nelson, who remains with the department as a teacher and researcher.|
“The first commitment I had when I accepted the appointment was to do everything possible to help get my six graduate students finished up,” Nielsen says of those anxious May days.
“I was also completing the edits on a textbook I was writing on food analysis, teaching class, and trying to get ready to leave for Poland on a threeweek study abroad trip, all at the same time.”
On top of that, Nielsen had to switch offices with outgoing department head Phil Nelson, who was returning to teaching and research.
“Well, that's the nice thing about starting in the summer,” Nielsen admits. “I was able to tie up a lot of loose ends and ease into the new job. Believe me, I needed every minute.”
With the transition period behind her, Nielsen is ready to fill the very large shoes of Nelson. All he did was invent the department 20 years ago, serving as its only head since it was born out of Purdue's Food Science Institute on July 1, 1983.
The Department of Food Science started with 40 undergraduate and graduate students and 10 faculty members. In just two decades, student enrollment has quadrupled and the number of faculty has nearly doubled. Four years ago, faculty, staff and students relocated from a cramped, 85yearold building to a brand new $28 million stateoftheart facility.
“I hope we will be able to capitalize on the strong position Phil put us in. With a beautiful building and a strong program, I think the future looks bright,” says Nielsen, who hopes those factors will help lure topquality graduate students to the department.
“Now that we have established our undergraduate program, I think we can focus our attention in some other areas. We'd like to maintain our size and the quality of education, but now we can put some emphasis on strengthening and enlarging our graduate program, to increase both the quality and quantity of our graduate students.”
But Nielsen, a food chemist who has been on the Purdue faculty since 1983, knows it will take more than fancy bricks and mortar to do that.
“There is support for us in the administration to increase our teaching, outreach and research capacity to take on additional graduate students,” Nielsen says. “But to do that, we need to bring in large grants, which enable us to make offers to the top-quality grad school applicants.”
But don't think the new emphasis Nielsen is placing on graduate studies means the undergraduate program will suffer.
“We're not de-emphasizing our undergraduate program,” Nielsen says. “We do undergraduate education as well as anybody in the country. Other schools model their programs after ours. My goal is to make us even stronger as a department. We have the potential to do that.”
Contact Nielsen at email@example.com