Chemistry Department Collaborates with McKee Foods


In late September of this school year, McKee Foods Corporation contacted Southern Adventist University’s Chemistry Department for a potential collaboration. Southern’s chemistry lab has some equipment and instrumentation that McKee Foods does not have, according to Bruce Schilling, PhD, chemistry professor. “We had them come over and tour the chemistry department and some of us went over there and toured the analysis laboratories at McKee Foods,” Schilling shares.

Jared Freeman, an analytical chemist at McKee Foods and alum of Southern, said the equipment at Southern can help them troubleshoot and find issues. “The instrumentation that Southern has is incredibly helpful for troubleshooting, that’s the big thing,” he says. “We have an issue, we don’t know why, and we can take it over here [Southern].”

Brent Hamstra, PhD, professor and chair of the chemistry department, feels that this collaboration with McKee Foods is a great opportunity for students to see how chemistry works in the real world. Hamstra shares that chemistry students sometimes have a hard time realizing that a chemistry degree is beneficial for a lot of jobs; going into medicine is not the only option. Hamstra believes that students hearing about chemists from McKee Foods using Southern’s instrumentation for real-life problems will help open their eyes to more options.

For a number of years, McKee Foods has offered an internship to a chemistry major each year. Jared Freeman was the first chemistry major from Southern to intern at McKee Foods before he graduated in 2023, and Nathan Dickerhoff, senior chemistry major, is currently interning at McKee Foods. Hamstra shares that the interns have had great opportunities to see how chemistry can be applied off-campus and used to solve problems outside of the classroom. This also gives students the awareness that there are jobs available after graduation, which is important to the students, says Hamstra.

McKee Foods has visited Southern’s chemistry lab several times to test and receive data, shares Freeman. He says that since Southern has several professors with doctoral degrees there is a lot of knowledge combined when McKee Foods chemists come to the Southern chemistry lab.

Southern’s Chemistry Department and McKee Foods have talked about the potential for students to take a field trip to the McKee Foods labs next year to learn more about how chemists work in the field. Both Southern’s Chemistry Department and McKee Foods have expressed that they want to continue the collaboration in the future because it is a benefit to both sides. ­“We want to benefit the department because they have been a big benefit to us,” says Freeman.

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