Kultivate Podcast: Take a look into the only department of grain science and industry in the world


Anna Schmidt, opinion editor and junior in journalism: “Today I have with me Gordon Smith, the head of the department of grain science and industry. Today we’re going to be talking a little bit about the department of grain science and industry. So Gordon, I’ll have you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do and a little bit about the department.”

Gordon Smith, head of the department of grain science and industry: “… I am professor [and] head of the department of grain science. I came to K-State five and a half years ago after twenty plus years in the food industry. So I was a research and development guy my entire career. I was vice president for ConAgra and director of [research and development] for Sarah Lee so I had worked for companies that had bakery related enterprises. [I] came here to the department — it’s been a great experience, a great transition. As your listeners may know, this is the only department of it’s kind in the world, so there’s no other department of grain science in the U.S. … There are other departments that have pieces of what we do, or they are housed in other places, but there is not a unified department of grain science and industry like there is at K-State anywhere — we’re proud of being the only one. We have great students and students with a variety of backgrounds. So the department here at K-State confers four degrees, three of which are undergraduates which are milling science, feed science including companion animal feed science so for pet food and also bakery science. Then, to graduate students, we confer grain science masters or PhD.”

Schmidt: “Can you talk a little bit about the hands on experience that the students get in the department? Just different projects they work on or we can also talk about the flour mill I know that’s a big part of it.”

Smith: “The philosophy of the department again, through history, has been to teach students the sound fundamentals, right? Part of college is coming and learning math and physics and those kind of things, the basic things you wouldn’t get elsewhere, then to couple that with applied classroom instruction. We have about 150 years of industry experience within the department, so people who have worked in the industry for 10 years or 20 years or 25 years before coming here. You have industry people who have actually done this and so we have experience. In the classroom, we try to have industry savvy professors help with the applications classes. People have basic backgrounds and we have a great core of those professors as well to help with the fundamentals. Then, we have facilities thanks in part to the state of Kansas and to donors, alumni, the industry. We have a small pilot bakery in the basement of Shellenberger [Hall] which we do bake sales. Some of the students may have seen that, so those products come from that bakery, it’s the smallest of three facilities. Then we have a flour mill, which is the short squatty cement building out on the north campus across from the stadium, and then the taller building to the right is the feed mill. [The feed mill] produces feed for many of the livestock herds at K-State and research animals, and it also allows us to train our feed scientists, some of which want to do production feed — that’s their career goal — so they can actually work in the feed mill while they are here, doing exactly that. So our students get a chance again to get a solid foundation to back that up with applied classes to help with the classroom part of applying those foundational principles. Then, they can put it in practice in all three disciplines within the department, so we’re quite fortunate to have those facilities.”

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