What’s a celebration without ice cream? To honor Purdue’s 150th, two animal sciences alumni collaborated with Deklin Veenhuizen, Joel Mohring, Yiwen Bao, Luping Xu, Molly Powell and Cameron Wicks, alumni who were students in Assistant Professor Dharmendra Mishra’s spring 2018 food science class, to develop Boiler Tracks. The vanilla ice cream has chocolate pieces, toffee and caramel.
CHRISTY COON BS '04 ANIMAL SCIENCE
Ben & Jerry’s, Baskin-Robbins, Breyers, Blue Bell, Round Barn Creamery — one of these is not like the others. When Christy Coon was obtaining her animal sciences degree, she had no idea that her future would include establishing an ice cream brand with her family.
She started Round Barn Creamery to teach her children. “Originally, it was meant to be a place for the kids to work and earn money for college. A place where they could learn what hard work and work ethic is,” Coon says.
In 2017, her husband, Craig Coon (BS ’03, animal science), passed an ice cream truck that was for sale. After much consideration, prayer and family conversations, they decided to buy the truck. The summer was spent making ice cream with their four children and two 5-gallon churns. They’ve upgraded the churns, and now summer consists of making over 15 custom ice cream flavors to sell from the truck.
This passion for creating a sweet treat eventually led to the genesis of Boiler Tracks. As a thank you to Mike Schutz, an animal sciences professor who played a role in her and her husband’s collegiate careers, Coon and her family donated Round Barn Creamery ice cream for his retirement party. After Dean Karen Plaut tasted the ice cream, conversations began about customizing an ice cream for the 2019 Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry. This led to Coon’s work with Cameron Wicks, one of six students in the Department of Food Science who helped develop the Boiler Tracks recipe.
“The recipe itself was all students; our role was to find the specific ingredients and brands to use for the recipe,” Coon says. “My favorite part was having been a student, I went to Pappy’s to study and hang out with friends. Now I go in there and they have something I’ve produced with my husband. It’s full circle — it’s surreal.”
“It’s a wonderful feeling to work together as a family.”
CAMERON WICKS BS '18 FOOD SCIENCE
In sixth grade, Cameron Wicks knew she wanted to be a food scientist.
“My dream is to take a product from ideation and then see it on a grocery store shelf a year or two later,” she says.
It’s no surprise, then, that Wicks pursued food science as her major and ended up in the student group responsible for developing the recipe for Boiler Tracks ice cream. The assignment for Food Science 443 tasked teams of students to create a Purdue-themed ice cream product.
The Boiler Tracks team members considered not only the nutrition, processing, and chemical and sensory analysis of the ice cream, but also aspects such as packaging, sanitation and cost analysis. “It was great being able to see the whole process and how the concepts we learned in class applied to making a product,” Wicks says.
Food science is food chemistry. “It’s the aspect that has always clicked for me. When you think of food as a mixture of chemical structures, it's interesting to learn how they interact with one another,” she says. Wicks is now a graduate research assistant at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in a lab known for its work on ice cream, chocolate and sugar. She’s applying her knowledge of ice cream by researching innovative ways to manipulate the melting properties of the sweet treat. “While working on Boiler Tracks, I had no idea I would end up in ice cream research. This project was a great transition into my graduate work,” Wicks says. “I am grateful to Purdue for providing me an education that prepared me for my future.”
“Our strategy was to make something nostalgic, but that tasted great and could end up being iconic.”
Wicks is now a graduate research assistant at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in a lab known for its work on ice cream, chocolate and sugar. She’s applying her knowledge of ice cream by researching innovative ways to manipulate the melting properties of the sweet treat.
“While working on Boiler Tracks, I had no idea I would end up in ice cream research. This project was a great transition into my graduate work,” Wicks says. “I am grateful to Purdue for providing me an education that prepared me for my future.”
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