Graduate Student Profile - Harrison Helmick

harrison-helmick.jpgHarrison Helmick successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation on November 16, 2023. Harrison is a native of Lawrence, Kansas, and he completed his bachelor's degree in Bakery Science at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.  

Harrison's dissertation was entitled, "Bioinformatic modeling and functionalization of pea protein through cold denaturation with applications in extrusion, gelation, and emulsification". The goal of Harrison's work was to develop relationships between bioinformatic models of protein structure and rheological/mechanical properties in simple food systems. Harrison also attempted to improve the functionality of plant based protein using low temperatures, which was a novel advancement when this research was conducted. This was done through a few methodologies, most notably cold extrusion.

Harrison's mentor was Dr. Jozef Kokini. Other members of his gradate committee included Dr. Arun Bhunia, Dr. Sharon Kessler and Dr. Yuan Yao.

Harrison says he chose Purdue Food Science because he wanted to attend a university with a strong program, and the research opportunities at Purdue presented themselves. Harrison advises prospective graduate students, "I would recommend coming to Purdue if you are interested in developing a more fundamental understanding of food science and the interactions that occur in food. It is a good place to start an academic career."

Harrison had several experiences that enhanced his experience as a Ph.D. student at Purdue. Harrison is an active member of the American Society of Baking, currently serving on the Board of Directors and Product Development Committee, and was previously a technical session speaker. Additionally, Harrison has served in leadership positions, including president, for the Kansas State Alumni Association of Bakery Science. Harrison has also been an active leader in the Cereals and Grains Student Association and Institute of Food Technologists. To augment his technical skill set, Harrison worked at the Purdue Data Mine where he collaborated with Bayer Crop Science to develop machine learning architectures for predicting corn yield based on weather (sourced using API’s) and genetic information (provided by Bayer). Work was conducted in R Studio and Python, and final models utilized SciKit’s random forest regressor.

Harrison garnered several awards and recognitions during his time at Purdue Food Science including:

  • Bilsland fellowship – Purdue University - 2023 
  • Roy Whistler Graduate Student Fellowship – Whistler Center - 2023
  • 2nd place: Institute of Food Technologists Education and Outreach division - 2022
  • Certificate of Excellence: Office of interdisciplinary graduate programming Spring showcase - 2022
  • 1st place: Graduate Industrial Research Symposium hosted by the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, Food Processing Division - 2021
  • CECAM CHARMM GUI, Center Europeen de Calcul Atomique et Moleculaire - 2021
  • 1st Place: Cereals and Grains Association Best Student Research, Pulse Division - 2021
  • Finalist: Office of Interdisciplinary Graduate Research Spring Conference - 2020
  • Ross Fellowship - Purdue University - 2019

After graduation, Harrison plans to continue his career as a Senior Scientist- Protein Chemistry for Roquette in Geneva, Illinois. Congratulations, Harrison! We wish you all the best!