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Spring Hill College Magazine

Students Distill Knowledge From New Food Biology Course

At Spring Hill College, it’s okay to play with your food. And for those who participated this fall in the inaugural Food Biology course offered through the Department of Biology by Don Culberson, PhD, it was actually encouraged.  

The course, for which the equipment often included saucepans and baking trays, featured some basic lab experiments to examine the nutrient content of food and identify if and how some foods have been genetically modified. Students had the opportunity to investigate the process for changing the nature of certain food products into others, such as changing milk into cheese and fermenting sugars and starches into beer. Culberson, associate professor of biology, also reviewed food history to add some, well, flavor.

“There’s a lot of chemistry, biology and biological chemistry in the preparation and creation of food,” Culberson said.

SHC students observe how to make beer in food biology course.
SHC students observe how to make beer in food biology course.

At the top of the list of favorite class activities – beer making. Besides being a popular topic for many college students, the activity, asserts Culberson, involves a great deal of skill and practical, scientific techniques. He also notes that it illustrates some very specific biological processes. 

Culberson, along with Jon Peace, adjunct instructor of chemistry, showed and discussed the ingredients that go into the various types of beer and the equipment that can be used for home brewing. The students were able to visit a local brewery as part of the class, and their discussions included the history of some popular brands of beer. “There’s some very good, and kind of exciting, biochemistry involved in the fermentation process,” Culberson said. 

The class, which was offered this year as a piloted, special topic course, may return as a regular part of the Spring Hill curriculum. Culberson noted the relatability of food and beverages for illustrating basic scientific concepts as a reason for the course’s popularity.

Visit the website for the Department of Biology to learn more about the program. 

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