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Spring 2012
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Senior Portraits

Claudia Pazlopez

Text: Hannah Stamler ’12 | Photo: Kent Loeffler

Claudia Pazlopez

Claudia Pazlopez’s passion for food science is personal; her mother’s sensitivities to different food preservatives prompted her to start asking questions about food design and why we put certain things in food products.

At Cornell, she has gotten the chance not only to answer these questions, but also to design her own food products through her participation in Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) product development competitions.

Tamarangles, the healthy, gluten-free snack her team developed in 2010, won third place. This year, she is leading the Cornell team in the Disney-IFT competition, in which students are tasked with designing a nutritious snack for children. Their product, Vegginators, has been selected as a finalist, and she will be presenting it at the IFT Annual Meeting in Las Vegas at the end of June.

Research collaborations with food science professor and department chair Dennis Miller have also allowed Claudia to combine social justice with science.

Her senior honors thesis study focuses on the nutrition of high-altitude communities in developing nations in South America, including her father’s native Peru.

Beans are high in protein but also contain compounds called trypsin inhibitors that impede protein digestion. These compounds can be inactivated through cooking the beans in boiling water; however, inactivation may not be complete at high altitudes where the boiling temperature of water is lower.

Claudia experimented with cooking times, temperatures, and techniques to see whether those living far above sea level might still be able to receive the nutritional benefits of beans under sea-level conditions. She will present her findings before the National Conference of Undergraduate Research this spring.

Research has been a big part of Claudia’s Cornell experience from the beginning. She has worked closely with Professor Miller since her freshman year, and Claudia said the opportunity to collaborate with professors is one of the things that attracted her to CALS. The small size of the Department of Food Science and its great student-to-professor ratio also appealed.

“When I met with professors as a prospective student, I immediately realized how invested they were in helping students,” Claudia said.

She also has taken advantage of other opportunities at CALS, including a stint abroad exploring the food and culture of Spain. Last spring, Claudia studied in Barcelona at the Universitat Autònoma, following a curriculum that Cornell food science professor Alicia Orta-Ramirez helped her design. Among other things, she learned about food standardization from a European perspective, and she put some of that knowledge into practice with a summer internship at Unilever in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

The Hunter R. Rawlings III Presidential Research Scholar was recently recognized with the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. Claudia was also part of a multi-disciplinary team of five Cornell undergraduates who won the 2012 Nielsen Case Competition, in which the students were asked to solve a real-world business challenge.

She will be staying at Cornell to pursue a graduate degree in food chemistry, with the hope of pursuing an international career in food science, working in the developing world.