Catherine Cantley is the new Assistant Professor at the Caldwell Food Technology Center. Catherine has a diverse set of experiences that include manufacturing, process engineering, product optimization, food safety, and sensory and consumer science. She has worked in both the retail sector and the foodservice sector, so she can flex her style readily to meet the needs of the customer. In this day and age, data is everywhere. Catherine loves to leverage the power of those data to increase profit margins, product quality, and process efficiencies. She loves to read about and mentor others in leadership competencies, especially as they relate to food manufacturing and research.
Catherine, her husband, and her three children live in Meridian, Idaho. They stay busy with sports, craft projects, camping, fly fishing, and gardening. We sat down with Catherine to get to know her a little bit better with a Q&A!
Q: Why did you choose Food Science?
A: Math and Science are disciplines that I’ve always loved. As a young university student I worked with my advisor and met with a few industry contacts to get their perspective. I considered various degree options but ultimately decided on Food Engineering because I felt that I could best express my creativity. I also love that I can eat my experiments. What other discipline can say that?!
Q: What is your previous work experience?
A: I started out my career in the retail side at PepsiCo Americas Foods, working as a process engineer on the Lay’s Potato Chip brand worldwide. There I gained experience in ideation, focus groups, prototyping, experimental design, refining with sensory and consumer testing, scale-up, commissioning, and quality monitoring. I wanted to learn the foodservice side of our industry so I moved to Simplot Research & Development, leading a team of sensory and consumer scientists. We focused primarily on providing the best products to our foodservice customers (a very different experience from measuring consumers) and differentiating our commodity foods. Now, I am focused on supporting Idaho Food Manufacturers in achieving their goals, whether they are process engineering- or food science- related.
Q: Were you always interested in Food Science, when did you first become interested in this field?
A: Honestly, I didn’t know food science was a field until I got to college. I was part of the Biological Systems Engineering undergraduate program at WSU. I met with Dr. Juming Tang and Dr. Marvin Pitts and learned more about this area of food. Both of them gave me projects that I found fascinating. It was a bit of a happy accident that I fell in love with food science. Either that, or Dr. Tang and Dr. Pitts are fantastic salesmen. I’ll let you decide.
Q: What is your future career/research goals for SFS?
A: I am looking forward to helping our Idaho Food Manufacturers grow to their full potential. I plan on working with small, medium, and large manufacturers to support their goals. Each will be quite different from each other. I also hope to work with several of the commissions/consortiums in the area to manage larger scope projects that contribute significant learnings to the industry on the whole.
Q: What are your current hobbies?
A: I love to get crafty, including making custom vinyl shirts, wine bottle labels, and greeting cards. I also love fly fishing, gardening, and camping.
Q: Why would you recommend Food Science to students?
A: A Frito Lay potato scientist met with me as a freshman and gave me this sound piece of advice. “When the economy takes a downturn, other industries will be hit hard and take considerable lay-offs. The food industry, by comparison, is quite stable. People still need to eat.” At the time, I had no idea how important that was. In 2007, right after I graduated with my M.S., the market crashed and many of my peers were struggling. Our Food Industry kept growing. My career kept growing, I had the budgets I needed to continue to do creative research, and my family’s income was secure. Don’t get me wrong, things like creativity and expressing your full personality are important in a career choice, but so is security. In Food Science, you get the best of it all.