As part of the Sweet Scientists, the winning team on the 25th season of The Amazing Race, Dr. Maya Warren was honored to represent women in science and to inspire young people to get into the field as well. Stating in an interview on the public radio show Science Friday anything you eat, wear, or sit on has science behind it. And if you want be a scientist that studies candy, cheese or hotdogs the opportunity is out there.
A summer internship at a food company helped turn her path toward food science and after earning a degree in chemistry from Carleton College she began her graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison to study ice cream. Yes, ice cream which at first seems like fluff subject, but the science involved in any food preparation can be very complex.
The work she completed at Madison included looking at how changes in cellular components like ice crystals and air cells make different frozen dessert products act and taste differently from one another. An understanding of ice cream microstructures helps us to know which components will create a more slowly melting product or which makes it feel more creamy making a better experience for the consumer.
For her dissertation she focused on fat agglomeration, which is how fat molecules cluster together. The long range goal of this work is to help ice cream makers produce low-fat ice cream with less gum and binder and a better mouth feel. Earning her doctorate in late 2015, it was announced in January 2016 that Dr. Warren was hired as a food scientist at Coldstone Creamery and Pinkberry, subsidiaries of Kahala Brands.
Warren is working with Research and Development teams to create new flavors and innovative products unique to each brand. In June of the same year she co-hosted a webinar focused on ice cream and its microstructures presented by the American Chemical Society.
Warren hopes that her time on the Amazing Race will help her on a career path that combines science, sweets, and television possibly even hosting her own show about frozen desserts around the world.
Written by Angela Goad