Tearna Dahanayake

Tearna Dahanayake

Junior Product Development Technician, SmartFoods
Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours)

She loved taking courses that focused on food, says Tearna Dahanayake who just completed her Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours), specialising in food science.

“All my courses that involved the actual use of food interested me. For example, during my first year at AUT I took a food science course where we tested food for gluten and sugar. I also still remember learning why tempered chocolate was perfect for the human temperature, or how the texture or smell can impact the acceptability of food.”

The highlight of her studies however was being able to develop a food product as part of her food science research courses.

“I took two research courses. For the first one I successfully made three keto gourmet ice cream flavours, and for the second I successfully made dairy and lactose-free sour cream. These are both products that weren’t available at the time I developed them. It was exciting to develop a method to create each product as there weren’t any recipes for them.”

Fulfilling her dream
Tearna says she has always wanted to work with food, specifically developing new products.

“I’ve always enjoyed food, cooking and making up new flavours and concepts. I didn’t want to be a chef, so food science was the perfect solution. I chose to study at AUT for its practical components. I felt it was a more relevant university and had a smaller class size, which would allow more in-depth teaching.”

She has now fulfilled her dream of a career in food and just started working as a junior product development technician at SmartFoods.

“SmartFoods produces Vogel’s cereal, as well as a few side brands and products. I’m on the product development team, and currently make up test samples in the test kitchen for tastings and concepts. I also handle some paperwork. I’m now working up to become a product development technician where I can develop my own recipes for the company.”

Advice for other students
It’s okay if you’re struggling at times, Tearna says.

“The start of your degree can be tough because it’s about the foundation of your studies, with a lot of chemistry and microbiology courses. It’s ok to fail. Almost everyone I know, including myself, failed a course or two, but you just keep going and resit the courses you need and it will soon be a non-existent issue. I struggled at the start but then in the last two years of my studies I had an A grade average.”

Those first years are well worth it, she adds.

“In the last few years, your degree becomes focused on food and how all the first-year information relates to food. If you choose product development, you’ll also have opportunities to be creative and develop a new food product. This degree also leads to a lot of free food!”

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