Food Science and Technology


Food Science is the study of foods and food components and their utilization. It draws upon chemistry, biology, engineering and the behavioral sciences to form a unique field of study. The mission of the department is to generate knowledge about foods through research, and to apply and disseminate knowledge through teaching and outreach. The department's goal is to ensure the availability of safe, nutritious, appealing food with minimal environmental impact for the benefit of all people.


The department consists of 17 Senate faculty, one lecturer SOE, and seven CE specialists for a total of 6.40 I&R, 10.30 OR and 6.20 CE FTE. In addition we have 0.52 Unit 18 lecturer FTE, one adjunct professor, one academic administrator, and two specialists. By 2006, three faculty (0.95 I&R and 2.05 OR FTE) and two CE specialists (1.2 CE FTE) will have reached age 65.

Major Programmatic Thrusts of the Department (current)

  • Brewing science
  • Food component interaction and analysis
  • Food engineering and physical properties of foods
  • Food microbiology
  • Food safety
  • Sensory science

Major Programmatic Thrusts of the Department (5-10 years)

No changes in thrust areas themselves, but probably stronger emphasis on food safety.

Program Impact/Ranking

Our program is the only food science program in the University of California system, and we have the only food science Ph.D. program in the State of California (including private universities). UC Davis also is the only public university in the U.S. offering an accredited four-year program in brewing science (an option in the fermentation science major). Last year in the U.S., we graduated the most undergraduate food science students who were accredited by the Institute of Food Technologist. We also had the largest number of graduate students in food science of any program in the U.S. Our department has three endowed chairs: the John E. Kinsella Endowed Chair, the Anheuser-Busch Professorship in Malting and Brewing Sciences and the Peter J. Shields Endowed Chair in Dairy Sciences.

Extramural Grants and Gifts

Direct cost expenditures for 97/98 were $2,577,206, and for 98/99 were $2,894,616. Fund sources include NSF, USDA, NIH, DOE, and DANR, as well as commodity boards and industry sources. The grant funds were distributed across the programmatic areas with less support going to sensory science than the other categories, due in part to the smaller number of faculty in that area. The department also receives a significant amount of gift funding.

Teaching Programs of the Department

The department offers B.S. degrees in food science with options in five programmatic areas. The number of undergraduate majors has doubled in the past five years, from 68 in 93-94 to 140 in 98-99. Several of our high-enrollment courses are required for other majors in our college. The student credit hours recorded to our faculty have increased from 5,288 in 93-94 to 8,160 in 97-98 and 10,622 in 98-99.

The department, through the Food Science Graduate Group, offers programs leading to M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in food science. Enrollments have consistently averaged about 70 in the Graduate Group, including some working with faculty in other departments. In addition, a number of our faculty are active in other graduate groups including engineering, microbiology, biochemistry, nutrition, and agricultural and environmental chemistry. For a number of years, we have been the support department for the Agricultural and Environmental Chemistry Graduate Group, which has approximately 50 students.

Outreach/Extension Roles

The applied research and outreach work of our CE specialists currently involve work in the following areas:

  1. Dairy foods processing
  2. Fruit and vegetable processing
  3. Seafood processing
  4. Consumer issues
  5. Food safety, both in terms of microbial and toxicological issues

The seafood specialist has a 20 percent appointment in our department, and 80 percent in SeaGrant. We are concerned that when the incumbent retires, it is not clear that this position would be filled. The seafood specialist fills a large training need niche not only in California, but on the West Coast of the U.S. and internationally as well. We see a large demand in the area of food safety.

Our department is the home of the California Institute of Food & Agricultural Research Program (CIFAR). CIFAR was established in 1991 to enhance collaboration and technology exchange with food and agricultural industries and is supported by extramural funds. Support comes from the affiliation of industrial members and grant/contract support from NSF, DOE, State, and private sources. We also administer the UC Laboratory for Research on Food Preservation, located in Dublin, CA. This lab receives separate line item funding from the State and is responsible for monitoring the safety of processed food within California.

Potential for Collaborative Links to Other Units to Develop Clusters of Excellence

  • Brewing science with biotechnology and fermentation science
  • Food biochemistry and chemistry with biotechnology and transgenic animals and plants
  • Food engineering and physical sciences with the Engineering College. 
    Food microbiology with genomics
  • Food safety is an area in which our campus is poised to develop a cluster of excellence
  • Sensory science with behavior and social sciences.

Positions Needed to Improve Research, Teaching and Extension Goals

  1. Microbial ecology is an area which presents an unique opportunity to our department. This would also support food safety. (I&R/AES)
  2. Integrated food protein design and dairy chemistry. (I&R/AES)
  3. Food engineering with specialization in advanced processing & packaging technologies. (CE)
  4. Dairy food microbiology is an area that is lacking on this campus. (I&R/AES)
  5. Consumer science is an extension of our very strong sensory science program. (I&R/AES).

Projected Resource Needs and Strategies for Achieving

Our greatest resource need is for improvements in infrastructure and new facilities. Our building was built in the early 1950s, and little has changed since then. Research and teaching labs are in need of modernization. The food pilot plant is seriously outdated and does not meet state codes and regulations for processing foods for human consumption. We have begun defining our needs in this area in smaller pieces for which we will hopefully be able to attract some industry funding. However, it is difficult to expect industry to provide complete infrastructure support.