Robin Houwen did both her bachelor and master in Food Technology at Wageningen University. During her master she tried as often as possible to combine the technical and consumer sides of foodstuffs and product development.
In addition to the taking the courses from her specialisation Ingredient Functionality, Robin managed to follow a few courses from the specialisation Product Design. The knowledge she acquired proved useful during her internship at Mondelez International in Munich. “I worked on a project with whey protein concentrate there. From milk you can make whey, and from that you can make a concentrate. A course I took on dairy and proteins was especially helpful during my internship!” The knowledge is also useful in her current job. “I have a good foundation in physics, chemistry and ingredients which allows me to cope in a company in this field. Furthermore, through a lot of group work with international students during the master Food Technology, I learned how to work together with to be tolerant of others. That is important to know, certainly in a large company.”
Robin currently works at Nutricia as a product technologist of medical foods. “This is for example food for old or sick people, for recovery and to reduce muscle breakdown. Or about food for kidney patients, Alzheimer’s patients or patients with saliva problems.” Robin is currently busy developing a new flavour for a product, as well as working on other projects. “It’s not very difficult, but very nice: A new product comes on the market- and you made it! Another big project is finding a new supplier of proteins. We currently have a shortage of a certain protein. Proteins are very specific, so it is quite difficult to find something that is similar.”
Robin’s daily tasks are very diverse. “I’m busy with team projects and experiments in the laboratory and pilot plant. In the pilot plant I test if a product produced on a large scale is the same as a product produced on a small scale. Therefore sometimes I’m busy on the computer the entire day, and sometimes I run around the entire day from here to there to talk with people. Everyone is busy working on different things, so it is interesting to talk with colleagues. Sometimes these discussions lead to solutions to problems, even if it’s outside the scope of their specific research projects.
Furthermore I had the opportunity to develop myself at the company. I participated in several trainings and workshops, where you learn a lot about technical aspects, yourself and management. You don’t gain this sort of knowledge at a university, so I found it great I had this chance! That is an advantage of working at a large company. The fact that Nutricia contributes to the development of medical products is also important to Robin. “I wanted to apply for this job mostly because of the medical aspect. I felt motivated to work on products that are to ensure someone is stronger and can do more things. You make sure that someone will have a better life.”