Bachelor's in Fermentation Science

Fermentation is the process by which organisms convert carbohydrates into energy and other by-products in the absence of oxygen. "Fermentation" is commonly used to refer to the production of alcohol from sugars, as in the production of beer and wine, but it is also present in many other common processes, such as the leavening of bread or the production of sauerkraut. Nationwide, craft beverages, such as beer, wine, cider, distilled spirits and kombucha, have increased greatly in popularity, as have fermented foods, such as yogurt, bread, cheese, dry-cured sausage, and kimchi. This growth has been spurred both by an increase in small batch, artisan-crafter products and by the recognition of the potential health benefits of a diet that includes fermented foods containing active organisms. Additionally, non-food fermentation is on the rise, such as in the production of biofuel, and in the production of pharmaceutical products and precursor molecules.

As the market for these products has increased, so has the need for trained and knowledgeable college graduates to fill scientific positions in these rapidly growing industries. The Fermentation Science program at Eastern Michigan University has been designed to bring together subjects from multiple disciplines and to frame them in the context of the science of fermentation and its practical application. The program includes a foundation in chemistry, biology and physics along with newly designed courses directly related to fermentation. As a culmination of the degree, majors will participate in a capstone project in cooperation with local businesses in the fermentation industry to apply what they have learned to real-life problems. The degree can be further customized through the selection of appropriate electives in science, business, and hospitality.

Programs

A minor in fermentation science will best serve students with a major related to either chemistry or biology, as the prerequisites for the FERM courses will largely be taken during the course of the major. The specific course requirements for a minor depend upon the specific major.

Program Advising

  • Cory Emal, Ph.D., Organic and Medicinal Chemistry; background in the chemistry of beer. Trained and certified as a beer judge through the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP); received formal training through the Siebel Institute of Technology, and is a member of American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC), the Ann Arbor Brewer's guild (AABG) and the American Homebrewer’s Association (AHA).
  • Gregg Wilmes, Ph.D., Organic and Polymer Chemistry; background in food fermentation, especially bread and aged sausage production.
  • Fermentation Science Program Goals 

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    1. To provide an integrated and practical educational experience for students interested in the science behind fermentation, including the production of fermented beverages, foods and industrial products.
    2. To afford the opportunity for students to have meaningful interactions and learning experiences with the local community, specifically those who are a part of the broadly defined fermentation industry.
    3. To create an environment for students to develop broadly transferrable and applicable professional skills and an appreciation for scientific inquiry. 
  • Program Learning Outcomes and Objectives

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    1. Students will demonstrate knowledge of the chemistry, biology and physics underpinning the process of fermentation and the production of fermented products. Components include:
      • Biochemical process of fermentation by yeast and bacteria (at laboratory and industrial scales)
      • Classes of biomolecules involved in fermentation and fermented products
      • Causes, identification and prevention of defects
      • Sensory and instrumental analysis of fermented products
    2. Students will demonstrate practical facility with various aspects of the fermentation industry. Components include:
      • Chemical and microbiological analysis of ingredients and fermented products
      • Sanitation and safety in laboratory and industrial settings
      • Planning and production of a commercial-grade fermented good
      • Business aspects (e.g. three-tier system, marketing, accounting, regulatory environment)
    3. Students will demonstrate professional skills and standards. Components include:
      • Oral presentations
      • Laboratory notebooks
      • Written reports
      • Collaboration
      • Ethical standards
    4. Students will investigate a problem in the fermentation industry, formulate a path of inquiry and carry out the investigation. Examples include:
      • Design and/or implementation of an analytical process
      • Development of a new recipe
      • Assess impact of change of conditions on an existing process

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