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Researcher hungry to improve healthiness of processed foods

"My research is at the intersection of food science and nutrition – creating new foods that impact health,” explained Sarah Corwin, a doctoral candidate in the department of food science. “We are translating science all the way to something that could impact lives.” 

Growing up in San Jose, Calif., Corwin was constantly cooking and had a passion for food. She also wanted to better understand nutrition and so she earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition at Case Western Reserve University. 

Corwin completed a dietetic internship through Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and worked as a clinical dietitian for an assisted living and skilled nursing facility. 

Corwin credits working as a registered dietitian with helping her understand work-life balance. “If you don’t allow yourself to do the things important to mental and emotional health, you’re not going to be the most successful professionally,” said Corwin. “If I don’t exercise, I get grumpy. Spending time with my husband and socializing are important to my mental health.”

Corwin posing in the lab

 

In 2016, she began her doctoral work at Purdue with Bruce Hamaker, Distinguished Professor of Food Science and Roy L. Whistler Chair. 

“My research is focused on which carbohydrates digest at different rates,” Corwin explained. 

Corwin found that certain links between glucose molecules in carbohydrate structures are slowly digestible. The findings hold potential importance because the speed of their breakdown can impact blood sugar. 

“I like being able to use my technical knowledge and expertise, being stimulated and continuing to learn and grow,” said Corwin.  

In her research, Corwin also hopes to answer if certain carbohydrates affect health, and if they can be put into food. Corwin sees a potential application in designing slow-digesting carbohydrates with health benefits for people with diabetes. 

Corwin cites the independence Hamaker grants her and support from professors across the department. “The department is a tight-knit community. If you need help, any professor with expertise in that area will help you.” 

Corwin completed an internship at PepsiCo and served as president of the Purdue chapter of Phi Tau Sigma, the honor society of food science and technology. After completing her degree this summer, Corwin intends to continue her research working in industry, looking for “immediate, real-world impact.”

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