Harriet Mcdaniel

Doctoral student in Food Science at Ohio State University

I graduated from Georgia Tech in the Spring of 2015 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology with a minor in Biochemistry. I began my PhD in Food Science with a focus on Sensory Science at the Ohio State University the following fall. Currently I am studying how physiological differences between people may help explain why polarizing textures (like the sliminess of avocados or oysters) are loved by some but vehemently disliked by others. I am also serving as the FoodSURE coordinator for the Food Science department where I facilitate undergraduate research and provide support for undergraduate students in the form of a monthly seminar series. After finishing my degree, I’m hoping to use my understanding of human perception to create foods and products that are designed for people not just consumed by them.

In a lot of ways, I think Georgia Tech Biology made me into not only the best scientist but also the best teacher I could possibly be. The department’s use of inventive teaching techniques helped me begin to critically evaluate material and move beyond questions of what and who to get to the underlying problems of why and how. I was also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work as an undergraduate teaching assistant for some of the introductory biology labs. Everyone’s heard the saying “the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else,” but rarely do departments invest so much effort in teaching you how to teach others. The support and development I received as a TA gave me strategies and techniques that I’m still using to help improve almost any class I’m a part of.

My Advice:

Biology is more than solving problems when things go wrong. It is more than disease and illness and medicine, and it has a lot of applications beyond what first comes to mind when you think of biology as a science. I’d encourage everyone to take a look at how the different fields in biology fit together and then to find ways to apply that knowledge to their passions beyond the field. There’s nothing wrong coming into the program knowing that you want to be a doctor and try to cure cancer, but it’s not the only path and it certainly isn’t the path for everyone. The amazing thing about a biology degree from Georgia Tech is that it gives you a foundation of scientific knowledge to answer a myriad of questions in a variety of majors be it food science, anthropology, or beyond

Finally, get involved outside academics. Georgia Tech is an amazing institution with a wealth of opportunities beyond what you’re doing in the classroom or the college. Not everything you do has to be a resume builder. I think a key reason my time at Tech had such a giant impact on me was because I found things I was passionate about elsewhere on campus and tried to build relationships and catalyze change in those spaces. Yes, your acacemics matter, but they are not the only thing that define you. It’s important to have other things you can fall back on to keep you sane and force you to slow down, or even just to refocus your energy away from the stress of classes.