Mollye MacNaughton

Mollye MacNaughton, graduate student from Dallas, Texas is studying food technology with a focus on thermal processing. Mollye recently won first place in the Institute for Thermal Processing Charles R. Stumbo Paper Competition.


Learn more about Mollye and her accomplishments below!

How has your experience working/studying in this field helped you achieve your academic goals?

Managing the on-campus pilot plant has allowed me the opportunity to learn more about the hands-on work related to thermal processing. I am able to apply theories I learn in class and navigate real-world problems. Through attending conferences and presenting research I have also been able to find my path for my Ph.D. and my career. 

Why is this field (or research) important to you? And what made you want to get involved in it?

The U.S. has the safest and cheapest food supply in the world, and thermal processing plays a large part in that fact. I have always wanted to be able to feed the world and thermal processing is a tried and true technology that isn't going away anytime soon. I want to be able to develop processes that increase the nutrient retention in foods and be able to teach others the art of thermal processing. 

What is the overall goal of your research/study and how will you able to achieve it?

The overall goal of my research is to determine if the motion used during thermal processing effects color retention in tomatoes. This project has already spanned over two years of work and will last about one more year. I have already conducted research about different types of motion when using thermal processing and how it can affect the rate of heat penetration of the food. 

Have you faced any obstacles academically or in your research? How did you overcome them?

No project is complete with obstacles to overcome. The first and biggest obstacle I faced was deciding what research I wanted to pursue that would make a meaningful impact on the food processing industry and also keep me engaged throughout the research. As silly as it may sound, the more I learn about food technology the more doors open and the harder it is to find a focus. However, when I finally focused on thermal process research the biggest obstacle has been communication. It was a learning process on how to explain my research goals to people not in the industry. I have really learned how to communicate clearly and effectively so that not only can my statistician help me create proper plans, but that when I speak at conferences I am not confusing the audience or myself. Ultimately I want to be able to explain to my work to my grandmother.

What would you say is your biggest take-away from your research/studies? 

That you need completely confident in your methods and be able to defend the choices you made in your research with a lot of supporting detail. 

What are your future goals/aspirations?

I want to work in the food industry and become a process authority so that I can use my experiences to educate others about thermal processing.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.