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STEM careers: Catherine Cooper, Senior Food Technologist

STEM careers: Catherine Cooper, Senior Food Technologist

As an engineering business, people might think that all we do is design, build, commission and install machinery.

And whilst this is central to our business, it would not be possible without the Innovation Centre, home to our Food Technologists who provide an extremely valuable service to our customers.

In here is a wide range of production and laboratory scale equipment, dedicated to the food industry, for our customers to use for new product development (NPD), process testing and training.

During this process they can work with or without the help of our Food Technologists, including Catherine Cooper who recently joined the team. Here Catherine shares how her love of science grew and evolved, and her motivation to join our team:

“My love for science developed whilst I was a teenager and I always thought I wanted to be a doctor as I went through High School. I picked my A levels in Biology, Chemistry, Geography and Maths with this in mind, but then went off the idea of medicine during Sixth Form. So, I explored different options, attended lots of Open Days and had offers for International Development degrees in the field of Human Geography. But then on results day, I did a complete U-turn and haven’t looked back since!

I opted to go through the clearing process to pick something I felt would suit me better. Based on an Open Day at the University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington campus, I chose to combine my long-term interest in science, and a passion for food which my family will attest to, by switching to do a BSc in Food Science and Nutrition and with it open the door to a career in Food Science.

During my placement year I was a Student Development Technologist at Premier Foods in their Cooking Sauces division. The blend of science and creativity in NPD suited me perfectly and helped me narrow down my career choices in food science.

Upon graduating, I moved to Norfolk where I got a fixed-term maternity cover job as an NPD Technologist for Hain Daniels in plant-based meats, working on the Linda McCartney brand. I also spent some time working on factory process and shadowed some trials for a High-Moisture Meat Analogue (HMMA) product.

After 18 months at Hain Daniels, I decided I wanted something a bit more permanent, so I found a Development job working for Snack Creations/Pasta Foods on snack pellets and pasta. Here was where I found my love of working with extrusion technology. I worked in both the lab and the factory, scaling up products I had created.

When I saw the advert for the role at Baker Perkins, it stood out immediately. Not only was it a step up in terms of seniority, but it also offered the chance to work with HMMAs (a very novel and exciting area) on their twin-screw extruders. I’ll be combining my knowledge of plant-based innovation and extrusion processing, whilst also having the opportunity to work across other product categories from time-to-time. This level of variety is something I have been trying to find and I’m very excited to move my career up a level with Baker Perkins.”

Women have historically been underrepresented in STEM careers, but general awareness of career opportunities is improving, and the pathways are becoming more attractive. The proportion of women entering full time undergraduate courses in a STEM subject had increased to 41.4% by 2020*, so hopefully we will see more people like Catherine joining our business in the future.

And we’re seeing an appetite in girls ourselves through the work we do in schools and colleges. As well as raising awareness of Baker Perkins, our colleagues who go out to speak to pupils are equally passionate about sharing the range of opportunities within the sector, and dispelling some of the myths that might have once held girls back.

To discover more on our Innovation Centre and the ways to join our business, please click the links below:

Innovation Centre

Current Vacancies

Apprenticeship Schemes

Graduate Roles

* https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/2021/02/11/women-in-stem-week-2021-how-were-empowering-the-next-generation/

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