Category Archives: Research & Innovation

Grad gains ground in career with position in quality assurance

Thao Nguyen is a 2021 graduate of the Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program at Niagara College. Her work as a research assistant with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre helped inform her career choices(plural?) once finished her studies. Today, she works with Mérieux NutriSciences.

Tell us about where you work (name and type of company) and your current position/title:

Mérieux NutriSciences is well known for offering testing, consulting, auditing work and solutions for manufacturers, processors, retailers, either food or non-food. With more than 50 years of experience, Mérieux has expanded into/grown to 27 countries with more than 100 accredited laboratories worldwide. It has also broadened the capacity to certification, labelling, sensory and so on to meet customers’ growing demands.

Describe your current role and what you like about it:

Working as a Quality Assurance analyst, I am in charge of conducting physical tests on a variety of samples including ready-to-eat, raw products to pet food, and even non-food. Regular daily tasks would include monitoring temperature and the working condition of equipment, conducting water activity, pH, Brix and other tests regarding physical attributes of samples. I also participate in the sensory panel to evaluate organoleptic aspects of products over time. What I like most about working here is that I get to work with different types of products everyday which gives me experience and understanding of all food products in the market.

How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?

Working at Research & Innovation, I was used to planning my day ahead and creating convenient, easy-to-use templates that made my work flow smoother. Product-wise, with hands-on product development experience, it is easier for me to understand what clients are aiming for and trying to do with their products, thus, looking at a sample, I know what I should focus on. 

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?

COVID was one of the biggest challenges with all the safety procedures and limited access to the campus. I learned to optimize the sample preparation process that can bring the best understanding of products without having to go back and forth. Savoury tea was one of my favourite projects with a lot of sensory involved. This was also when I gained the experience of how such a small change in the amount of ingredients could entirely affect the whole product. My sensory ability was also improved after that, which helped me in my recent job.

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

It was the chance of getting hands-on food technology experience that attracted me the most, including course scopes, class activity, the co-op program and working at Research & Innovation. The Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program also exposed students to different aspects of Food Science that really broaden their career path. A graduate from the program can confidently work in a kitchen, a food manufacturer, a retailer, or a laboratory, from product development to quality assurance or even start their own business.

Most memorable experience at NC?

One of my courses was Food & Wine Dynamics, in which I had to taste and evaluate attributes of wine to pair with a meal. The main thing was I was never a fan of alcohol. After that day, I learned that no matter the situation, I have to consume my alcohol responsibly; I should eat before taking alcohol and I can get affected without swallowing. This was also one of the reasons I got my Smart Serve certification, to have a better knowledge of how alcohol triggers your system.

Is there a particular mentor at either R&I or a faculty member who influenced you?

There are many faculty members that had a great impact on me during my years at Niagara College. Professor Amy Proulx influenced me the most with her passion about the food industry. Talking to her or watching her videos, you can always see that she is looking to orientate the food industry to a sustainable industry that provides safe and quality products. She is also trying to inspire the young of how great and why they should consider a career in food and beverage processing industry. I am always amazed at the energy and effort she has been putting in the Culinary Innovation program specifically and the food industry in general.

What advice would you impart to current research students or future alumni?

College is a great place and time for you to try and experience whatever you are looking to do. Don’t hesitate to try new things. If you succeed, great, you made it. If something fails, great, you taught yourself a valuable lesson.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

I learned the communication is an important aspect to keep the work moving forward. Even daily small talks or update would bring more information to your team than you expect. I also learned that even for things that you have never touched or known about, you can still do it if you have time to try and experience.

Proudest achievement since graduating?

My achievement would be small to many, but I am proud of myself for being better every day. The me of today is learning a new language, an instrument and a sport. The me of today will have a lot to talk with the me of 2021 who was so uncertain of everything back then.

What are you passionate about at the moment?

Even though college is done, I am still collecting other program-related certificates that can help me in the future. I am also learning a new language to broaden my career choice and travelling choice.

Interests outside of work?

Outside of work, I take buses to explore my neighbourhood area. I enjoy seeking beauty from people around me, the scene, the nature or whatever I find that day.

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?

Don’t just think, do. It’s either you make it or get yourself a valuable lesson.

NOW HIRING: Brewery Research Assistant position available with our CFWI IC team

Brewery Research Assistant, Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre

The successful candidate will be enrolled in the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program. As a Brewery/Beverage Research Assistant, you will have the opportunity to assist with beverage processing and product development projects, within a research team environment, with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre.

The successful candidate may also have the opportunity to work on the Craft Brewery Quality Program, helping create new quality standards for breweries across Canada. This position includes research and writing as well as brewery visits.

See the full Brewery Research Assistant job posting and apply today.
The deadline to apply is Monday, September 19th at 12pm.

To apply, please email your resume, cover letter, program of study, year or term in which you are currently enrolled, and school schedule (if available) to [email protected] and reference ‘Brewery Assistant’ in the subject line. 

We thank all applicants; however, only those qualifying for an interview will be contacted.

POSITION AVAILABLE: Research Finance Officer with our R&I team

Applications are invited for the position of Research Finance Officer in the Research & Innovation Division, located at the Welland Campus.

Reporting to the Manager, Finance Operations & Compliance, the successful candidate provides support to the Research & Innovation division and its Innovation Centres. 

The Research Finance Officer will facilitate activities in the Research & Innovation division by coordinating, monitoring and finalizing administrative details. The position is responsible for tracking and monitoring the Research & Innovation divisions portfolio of research grants including related contracts, budgets and reporting; maintaining historical and current research project/grant financial records; coordinating the collection and aggregation of research project metrics for external and internal reporting purposes; providing expertise and guidance on compliance and eligibility of research processes and purchases; liaising with external funding officials as needed on matters related to financial administration and reporting; and coordinating financial reporting and submission with the Niagara College Finance division.

See the full Research Finance Officer job posting for more details. 
The deadline to apply is Friday, September 9th.

We thank all applicants; however only those qualifying for an interview will be contacted.

NOW HIRING: Business Development Lead with SONAMI team

Applications are invited for the position of  Business Development Lead in the SONAMI Network within the Research & Innovation Division, located at the Welland Campus.

Reporting to the Network Manager, Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) the successful candidate leads the growth of applied research projects for SONAMI, including recruiting for and facilitating connections of industry and community partners through the network office, and on behalf of all network member institutions. This work involves working with the Network Manager, SONAMI, and equivalent project recruitment personnel at member institutions, to develop and execute strategies related to identifying and recruiting qualified external industry partners and clients, for applied research projects funded through SONAMI. This will involve specific sales and marketing strategies and managing execution.

Click here for the full Business Development Lead – SONAMI job posting.
The deadline to apply is Monday, August 8th, 2022.

We thank all applicants; however, only those selected for an interview will be contacted.

Researcher builds onto the basics

When looking for their next ‘life project’ last year, Ana Dias and family initially thought they would build a new house in their home country of Brazil.

Instead, today, Ana spends her time analyzing and reporting on the business needs of small- and medium-sized Canadian enterprises as a research assistant with Research & Innovation’s Business & Commercialization Solutions team.

How did this leap come about? A happenstance conversation from a fellow Brazilian who told her she should look at education opportunities at Niagara College (NC).

Alberto Hardt, now also a research assistant in a different NC innovation centre, came to Ana’s house one day while selling his worldly goods (in this case, a Lego set) in preparation for a move to Canada. “He came into my house, and he said, ‘You should go to Canada!’ so I asked him to tell me more,” she recalls.

And the more she and husband Guilherme learned from the conversation, and their own research, the more it made sense for them to take Alberto’s advice, pack up everything in their home city of Campinas, and move to Niagara at the end of 2021.

Today, Ana is in her second term of the Business Sales and Marketing program; Guilherme runs his graphic design studio remotely; and daughter Celeste just finished Grade 1 in a St. Catharines school.

“We decided it would be good for our family to go abroad and have this experience together, that it would be a better investment than just to build a house.”

No sooner was Ana in school, enhancing her sales and marketing knowledge, then she was also looking for a part-time position to further augment her classroom learning. She has a marketing degree and worked on an MBA in Branding Management, and has worked in the business for 20 years before coming to Canada, but she says she needed to go back to the basics for a fresh perspective on her career.

“Working in research allows me to embrace a variety of industries and get to know the different nuances of each market. I think that’s amazing!”

When a position was posted with Research & Innovation, she applied right away, she says. “I love academics so much that I told my husband I was going to try to get a job at the college. I love to research about different products and projects. Working in research allows me to embrace a variety of industries and get to know the different nuances of each market. I think that’s amazing!”

Her studies for her classwork and her work as a research assistant have both allowed that love of research to blossom. And she is gaining brand-new information, she adds, as she works on a research team that solves business and marketing challenges for SMEs who come to the college for applied research projects.

For example, she had to start from scratch on the topic of greenhouses – they just don’t have them in Brazil – while diving into a project helping a greenhouse software company in need of reaching a certain market. “It’s B2B business, so there is not as much information online about this type of product. We had to do primary research and find competitors in the market to build a case on how to market themselves.”

While she sometimes feels challenged by researching and presenting in English, she is also excited for the opportunity to be able to speak with the industry partners and help them on their innovation journey. “Sometimes I get nervous because I have to think about the research and how to answer questions. But I like the challenge and I like to bring new insights to the clients. I need that in my world.”

Her persistence has served her well thus far. She recalls a time about 13 years ago when she spoke very little English, but she was in London, England and needed a job to pay rent. She persuaded a pub owner to hire not only her, but also her husband (then her boyfriend), to clear away dirty glassware, so they could pay their bills. They also improved their English while on the job, and she continues to work on her English every day now that she is in Canada.

When not in class or working on projects for the research group, you can likely find Ana enjoying the many outdoor activities of Niagara, including hiking in Short Hills Provincial Park, cycling along the Welland Canal Parkway Trail, or kayaking the recreational canal in Welland. Most of her days start with a workout in the earliest hours of the morning: “I need to work out to start my day; that makes it a good day.”

Her family is also looking forward to another first when they experience camping in Muskoka later this summer.

NOW HIRING: Communications Lead with SONAMI team

Reporting to the Project Manager, SONAMI Network, the successful candidate provides a full range of communications services to the SONAMI Network, within the Research & Innovation division at Niagara College, and implements communication plans to support projects, events, publications and media relations.  This position is responsible for executing tactics for the promotion of applied research initiatives through a variety of communication channels including print, digital, media relations and social networks.

The Communications Lead is responsible for creating, writing and editing internal and external communication pieces (including gathering facts, planning and research).  This includes drafting and producing a regular network newsletter, developing and updating all promotional materials, maintaining up to date web copy as well as regular new success story publications. Further activities include submission to various divisional publications as well as proactively pitching stories to the media. The position acts as a liaison for the network to the media and facilitates meetings between the appropriate spokesperson and the media when required.

Click here for the full Communications Lead – SONAMI job posting
The deadline to apply is Tuesday, August 9th, 2022.

We thank all applicants; however, only those selected for an interview will be contacted.