Outstanding junior only undergraduate student chosen to participate in national conference for early-career scientists
By Nancy P. Weiss
"Right away, I knew. This is it. Food science is what I want to do as a career,” says Charlene Van Buiten, a junior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources who is in nutritional sciences major and minoring in food science.
Van Buiten, a Wallingford native and graduate of Lyman Hall High School’s Agricultural Education program, says food science found her. One afternoon after school, Carla Roselli, a teacher at Lyman, invited Van Buiten to consider becoming part of the Food Science and Technology Career Development FFA team. Van Buiten went to the practices, read the material and loved it. Soon she was competing at state and national levels with considerable success.
Van Buiten came to the attention of Associate Dean Cameron Faustman, a professor of food science as well as an administrator. Faustman connected her with College alumni Alice Wilkerson, Amy Alderton and John Paul Tata, who all work at Watson Foods in West Haven. For two summers Van Buiten has worked at the plant under their supportive direction.
“As soon as I met Charlene, I knew she was a student with great potential. It was an honor to nominate her for a slot at attending the conference of the New York Academy of Sciences,” says Faustman.
In the fall of 2009, when she was a sophomore, Van Buiten was chosen to attend the prestigious New York Academy of Sciences for Company Day with PepsiCo, an event for outstanding early-career scientists. She was one of fifty students selected and the only undergraduate chosen for such an honor. At the conference, Van Bitten heard from top executives and scientists from PepsiCo about areas of future research and knotty issues such as how to make nutritious foods more appealing.
For now, Van Buiten is immersed in college life. She is a member of Alpha Lamda Delta and Alpha Zeta, both honors societies. She loves her classes and enjoys knowing that food science is such an integrated field.
As Charlene Van Buiten completes the requirements toward her degree, she is excited about smaller classes and the chance to have in-depth experience in her chosen field.
“My goal is to study food science so that I can do product research and development. I am interested in functional foods and nutrition focused research,” says Van Buiten with a confident smile.
Based on her track record, it is likely that Charlene will make her mark in her chosen career. Few people find their path so early, so quickly and so effectively as she has.