Graduate Ag Research Spotlight:
Anbuhkani “Connie” Muniandy
“My research will contribute to reducing food waste to some extent.” —Anbuhkani “Connie” Muniandy, PhD Candidate, Food Science
Growing up in the small town of Simpang Renggam in Malaysia, Anbuhkani “Connie” Muniandy recalls helping her mother in the kitchen, curious about how combining just the right ingredients in the right amounts made things work. Muniandy always knew she would study science, but when she discovered the discipline of food science while searching for undergraduate programs, she found a recipe for academic success. Muniandy came to the U.S. in 2010 to study food science at Purdue and joined a research lab in her second year. She then earned an MS in food science from the University of Idaho before working for two years in research and development at Mars Petcare in Nashville, Tennessee. “That’s when I started to like food processing,” Muniandy says. She returned to Purdue in 2017 to join the Process Modeling and Validation lab of Dharmendra Mishra, assistant professor of food science, and completed another master’s degree in food science with a food processing emphasis. She began her doctoral program in 2019 under Mishra’s guidance.
Muniandy is developing an innovative technology for shelf-life prediction of food and beverages by building rapid, custom equipment for her study with the aim to reduce the analysis time. "Every food has an expiration date that is printed on the label,” she explains. “The way to decide those labels comes with a methodology that is universal across most foods and takes months to complete.” But the use by/freeze by dates often confuse consumers, and the food industry also builds in cushion. “My research is focused on shortening the analysis time so we can test products faster in efforts to increase the accuracy,” she says. Because retail outlets cannot sell a product beyond its expiration date, Muniandy’s research toward a new methodology could reduce waste at the retail and consumer level.
“In the next five to 10 years, I envision myself to be a leader in the food industry, and I want to prepare for it while I’m still in school,” she says. Muniandy has held leadership roles in the Purdue Graduate Student Government, including Career Team Chair and Senate Chair; and has served as president of the Hoosier Chapter of Phi Tau Sigma, the honor society for food science and technology. She has led successful Purdue teams in national product development contests, including three top-three finishes in the American Society of Baking’s annual competitions. Her advisor, she adds, “has always been supportive and encouraged me to pursue my interests, leadership activities and competitions.”
Muniandy plans to take her combination of technical expertise in food processing and leadership experience back into the food industry. Outside of the lab, she enjoys painting, and donates paintings to raise money for the College of Agriculture annual food drive. And every now and then, she returns to Malaysia to visit her parents and the kitchen where her career began.