Senior food science major learns on the job at Dairy Store

Student in lab coat holds up scientific beakers to analyze contents
2 months 3 weeks ago

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Dairy Store is prepping for a busy season.

The store, which is located on East Campus Loop, offers holiday gift baskets of cheeses and accompanying items, and the cheeses are cut and packaged in-store by employees.

Among them is senior food science major Alec Alvarez, of Gretna. Alvarez has had a hand in many operations of the Dairy Store since starting as a student worker more than a year ago, including whipping up dozens of flavors of Dairy Store ice cream.

Alvarez talked with Nebraska Today about being part of a campus tradition.

Why did you choose your major?

I love food and I love science. I knew I wanted to do something in the lines of nutrition, but I wanted to go more in-depth with the biology and chemistry of food production.

How did you get involved with the Dairy Store?

I saw a flyer at Innovation Campus saying they needed student employees in the dairy plant. I contacted Josie Houston, manager of the Dairy Store production facility, about the job and she was more than happy to set up an interview. One week later, I was wearing a hair net and a lab coat.

How long have you worked at the Dairy Store?

A year and three months. I started in September 2017, my junior year.

What do you hope to take away from your work there to use in the future?

To know how to operate and maintain plant equipment. Knowing how to follow and construct Standard Operating Procedures and Good Manufacturing Practices. Being able to maintain and follow HACCP protocols.

What is the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part about the job is trying to keep the continuous freezer running. Most of the time we know what's going on, but there's a different problem with the machine every other week.

What is your favorite dairy store flavor that you've helped to create?

My favorite flavor is Bounds to Be Good. It's fun to make and it tastes delicious!

Ice Cream Dairy Story Shark Week
Craig Chandler | University Communication
The first batch of a new flavor of ice cream, Pina Colada, pours into a bucket. From there, the lid is attached and it moves to the freezer.

Has there been a flavor that didn't work out the way you had hoped?

We never really had a flavor turn out bad, but the Pina Colada flavor took a few trials for it to meet our expectations. We had to experiment with ratio of colors, the amount of coconut flavoring, and the amount of rum flavoring.

Dish or cone?

Cone for sure. It adds a crunchy texture and I don't have to use a spoon when I eat ice cream.