School of Food Science

Concern for Future Food Informs WSU Grad Student’s Trip to Nation’s Capital

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To win, she had to write a short essay on what she considered the greatest challenge facing agriculture. Waldrop said she’d just finished a 20-page paper on sustainable agriculture—could she adapt an idea from that paper and whittle it down to a mere 500 words? Focusing on climate change, she wrote a succinct essay, then gathered the other materials required to be considered for the grant, including a letter of recommendation from the dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS).

When the USDA announced the winners, Waldrop said, “I was very surprised–pleasantly surprised–to find out that I had won. I never get these things!”

Waldrop traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the Forum and tour the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service headquarters in Arlington. “The forum seemed like a great chance to learn more about food policy,” she said. “I’m really interested in food security, sustainability, and the connections between health and access to food.”

The forum is two intense days of discussions about those and other issues, including the challenges facing a food system that needs to feed an ever-burgeoning population.

Waldrop has the educational background to both benefit from, and contribute to, the forum. She took her undergraduate degree in economics at U.C. Berkeley. At WSU, she is working on a master’s degree in food science, focusing on sensory aspects of sweeteners.

“We use an ‘electronic tongue’–a tool that has digital taste sensors that lets us profile different tastes presented in a solution.”

Waldrop’s background also includes a stint at the Culinary Institute of America, at both the Hyde Park, New York, and Napa, Calif. campuses, and work in the restaurant industry as a pastry chef. “I love food,” she said; “maybe too much!”

This scholar is also hungry for further education. Waldrop plans to continue at WSU in a doctoral program in economics. “I’m still figuring out my future goals, but I’m looking at the USDA’s Economic Research Service as a possible career avenue.” There, she’d be able to pursue her interest in policy decisions backed with sound, science-based information.

As for the challenge to agriculture, Waldrop said that climate change is “all encompassing. It was hard to pick one topic to focus on in that short essay, but climate seemed like a good focal point for addressing a lot of issues.”

Focus is good. As the dean of CAHNRS wrote in his letter of recommendation for Waldrop, “She’s like a rocket looking for direction. Megan is going to make a significant impact whatever she chooses to do.”

–Brian Clark, CAHNRS Marketing, News and Educational Communications

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