Grain innovations: Industry partnership enhances cereal science course

cereal grainsHumans have been consuming grains and cereal crops for thousands of years. They were some of the first plants to be domesticated and they remain an important part of our diet today. A course in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Colorado State University, FTEC 576 – Cereal Science, is getting a boost from an industry collaboration with Colorado company Ardent Mills.

Laurie Scanlin, Ph.D., Ardent Mills director of R&D-Culinary and Amy Sheflin, Ph.D., nutritional consultant and Instructor are joining forces to provide innovative instruction for students in the Cereal Science course.

Course enhancements

The Cereal Science course has always featured guest speakers from both CSU and industry to highlight the latest research on these valuable crops and food ingredients. Bringing Ardent Mills in as a partner is a natural evolution of that course focus but with a valuable upgrade. This partnership will feature guest lectures that highlight food production and research and development from a Colorado company and industry leader. Ardent Mills leads the U.S. in research, development, and processing of cereal grains into the delicious food products that we have all come to know and love. The partnership gives students the opportunity to get an inside scoop on real world applications for the information they learn in class, not to mention some ideas for where they might want to put their own skills to work once they finish their coursework at CSU.

Student learning

Students will learn how the physical-chemical properties of cereal grains play important roles in food and beverage properties, crop production and processing, and human health promotion. Subject matter experts from industry will emphasize course materials as guest lecturers during the semester. In addition to course materials and projects, we will explore a variety of other cereal grain topics including ancient grains and gluten free grains.

Some important topics we will explore will be considerations for plant-based proteins, gluten free grains, milling processes, anti-nutrients, fiber chemistry, cereal fiber for gut health and the truth and myths of fad diets that exclude grains.

About Ardent Mills

Ardent Mills is the premier flour milling and ingredient company that offers wheat flour and specialty products to a wide range of customers in the baking and food industry. Ardent Mills operations and services are supported by more than 35 community flour mills, a specialty bakery, a gluten-free facility, five chickpea and pulse locations, and The Annex by Ardent Mills, a dedicated team committed to cultivating the future of specialty grains and plant-based ingredients. Deeply rooted in communities throughout North America, Ardent Mills’ operations are located in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, and the company is headquartered in Denver, Colorado. Ardent Mills became involved with the FSHN department through Scanlin’s long-time and cherished connection with Martha Stone, a newly retired professor in the department.

Amy SheflinAbout Sheflin

You could say Sheflin’s obsession with food got started when her family took out all the grass in their suburban Boulder County front yard to grow tomatoes, asparagus, strawberries, cherries and other delicious plants. Her curiosity got the best of her as she tried growing, cooking and eating all of it. So it’s no surprise that in 2011 she was off to CSU for graduate school, first for an M.S. in Horticulture and next for a Ph..D in Food Science and Human Nutrition completed in 2016. The focus of her research career has evolved around the role of microbes in the health of both agricultural systems and crops as well as the human beings that consume them. Her dissertation research in Associate Professor Tiffany Weir’s lab highlighted the effects of rice bran on human gut microbial communities and human health.

Still not getting enough of all there was to learn, she continued her research as a postdoctoral fellow on the metabolomics of sorghum at CSU’s proteomics and metabolomics facility (now ARC-BIO) where she went on to stay as a permanent employee until October 2020. Eventually, though, Sheflin’s passion for mentoring and teaching took over and it was time to take all she had learned out into the world. So, in September 2020, she started a career as an independent nutritional consultant, health coach (full time at Noom, Inc.) and industry food safety instructor for Food Safety Net Services. She has a passion for sharing her knowledge about research related to all things FOOD and she is excited to have newly (re)joined the department as an instructor for Fall 2021.

Sheflin first became involved in the Cereal Science course by taking the course herself while completing her Ph.D. and then also later serving as a teaching assistant for the course. Teaching cereal science was a natural fit given that her dissertation research focused on the effects of rice bran on the human gut microbiome and her postdoc research centered around sorghum. When the department reached out to see if she might want to teach the course and the potential to partner with Ardent Mills, including all of the exciting research they’re doing in the area of ancient grains and sustainable plant proteins, it was a no-brainer. She immediately said, “Count me in!”

Laurie ScanlinAbout Scanlin

Scanlin has worked in food product development for over 25 years. She holds a doctorate in Food Science and Human Nutrition from CSU, with a research emphasis on cereals and pseudocereals. She is an adjunct professor at CSU and principle inventor of a U.S. patent on quinoa ingredients through the CSU Research Foundation. Scanlin is co-editor of a 2017 publication by Elsevier titled, Sustainable Protein Sources, a global book collaboration of over 50 food and agricultural scientists from industry, government, and academia. She is also a contributing author on two best-selling quinoa recipe books. Scanlin is passionate about food, nutrition and sustainability and has been an international symposium speaker on this topic. She is the recipient of product development, presentation, and leadership awards from Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and Cereals & Grains Association and is past chair of the Rocky Mountain Regional IFT.

Watch this video for a sneak peek at what Scanlin is doing at Ardent Mills!

The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences