Amazing Students

Heather Nelson

When doctoral student Heather Nelson is not researching ways to better filter, recycle and reuse chiller water used in chicken processing plants (one of Georgia’s biggest industries) to help save money and natural resources and to improve safety concerns like bacterial contamination, she is developing programs to get high school and middle school students more interested in science. She recently developed a new category for the state and national Science Olympiad program based on her work in food science.


Hillsboro, Wisconsin

High School:

Hillsboro High School

Degree objective:

Ph.D. in Food Science & Technology

Other degrees:

M.S. (Food Science & Technology), University of Wisconsin
B.S. (Food Systems & Technology), University of Wisconsin

Expected graduation:

December 2005

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

Since I came to the University last fall I have been working on a food science research project involving the recycling of water used in the poultry industry. This is a great opportunity because this industry is very concentrated in Georgia and is something I would not have had the opportunity to work with elsewhere. While living in Wisconsin I became involved in Science Olympiad, which is a non-profit international organization designed to teach high school and middle school students the importance of science as well as giving them an opportunity to compete in statewide and nationwide contests. At the Wisconsin Science Olympiad, I created and managed a new edition to the Science Olympiad curriculum: Food Science. It was so well received at the Wisconsin Science Olympiad events that the organization asked me to lead the development of new food science activities that can be presented at the National Science Olympiad Competitions this year (2005). Also, I have requested to extend the food science program into Georgia’s Science Olympiad competition this year (2004-2005). I think that bringing an event such as food science into a program such as this is an example to students of how the core sciences can really be applied. It also introduces them to what food science really entails.

Family Ties to UGA:

I am the first person in my family to attend college. My mother’s dedication to the support of my sister and me while building a successful business has taught me the value of hard work and determination. My father has been my biggest fan throughout life, whether in sports, academics, or other personal accomplishments. Without their support I could never have made it to where I am today.

I chose to attend UGA because… master’s degree advisor highly recommended UGA’s Food Science Department because of the facilities, equipment, and instructors it has to offer. When I was considering UGA, I was also reviewing literature for a research project. In that research, I found that work being done at UGA was aligned with my interests, which seemed like fate. I do have to admit an extended vacation from Wisconsin’s cold weather also made UGA appealing.

When I have free time, I like…

Golf is one of my favorite activities during free time because it is a relaxing yet competitive sport. I also recently became part of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. This organization is helping me prepare to run a half marathon and in return I will raise money for the society. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is a great cause, and it will be very rewarding to get in shape and complete my first half marathon. I will be running in honor of my aunt who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. I also enjoy just relaxing or going to dinner with my friends.

The craziest thing I've done is…

...come to UGA! When I graduated with my master’s degree I was not sure what I was going to do or where I was going to go. I had spoken with professors here, and I had some job possibilities lined up elsewhere. I decided to drive down to check out the campus and loved it. I went home, packed, and moved down here three days later. It all happened so fast that it took some time before it really sank in.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

...stay in school forever. I honestly just enjoy classes and the atmosphere of college. In the beginning all I wanted to do was be done and start my career. If money was not a consideration I would stay longer and take extra classes in related and unrelated disciplines.

After graduation, I plan to… in the industry for a number of years, most likely in research and development for a food company or for a government agency. Eventually, I would like to return to the university setting and be a professor. Being a chemistry teaching assistant and working with Science Olympiad has really shown me how enjoyable teaching can be.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

...when I had just gotten off the bus during my first week of classes and was crossing the street behind it. As I began crossing, I glanced up and saw a bus coming at me from the opposite direction. I began to run across the street, and my shoe fell off! I found myself standing there debating whether or not to grab my shoe. I eventually decided to leave it and ran across the street. After the bus passed, I returned to retrieve my shoe, and it had not been damaged at all. It was an embarrassing moment, but it definitely taught me to be careful around the buses.

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