A team of eight students from Clemson claimed the national championship in the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association (IFTSA) College Bowl Competition, held during the IFT FIRST event in Chicago last month. The competition, which has been assessing students’ knowledge in food science and related areas since 1985, promotes collaboration and friendly competition among student teams from various universities.
Clemson’s journey to the top began in 2009 when a Clemson team first entered the Southeastern regionals of the College Bowl. While the teams showed potential by qualifying for the nationals in 2011 and 2012, it was this year’s team that made history, clinching Clemson’s first IFTSA College Bowl national championship title.
Led by team captain Vishal Manjunatha (Ph.D. candidate), the Clemson squad was well-rounded, consisting of both graduate and undergraduate students from Clemson’s Department of Food, Nutrition and Packaging Science. Ph.D. candidate Deb Hutchins and undergraduates Ian Smith and Luis Ruvalcaba rounded out the playing team. Supporting them were four non-playing members: Ph.D. student Robina Rai, M.S. student Saralyn Caldwell, and undergraduates Emma Mullane and Emily Reichard were a crucial part of the team’s preparation, according to Manjunatha.
To prepare for this year’s competition, the team held regular practice sessions since the previous fall. These sessions involved reviewing question banks and studying a variety of materials. Simulated competition environments were created using a buzzer system to ensure quick responses, and each team member focused on specific areas to enhance overall knowledge.
Professor Anthony Pometto III and Assistant Professor George Cavender served as advisors to the team throughout their preparation and during the competition. The Department of Food, Nutrition and Packaging Sciences, the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, and the Graduate School provided financial support for the students’ travel.
The team competed against other regional winners, including teams from the University of Delaware, Ohio State University, the University of Massachusetts, the University of Wisconsin, California Polytechnic State University, Brigham Young University, Texas A&M University.