“I had an offer for my dream job at that time, but in the end I decided not to take the job,” said Dr. Béatrice Conde-Petit at the SCS “Women in Engineering” event on November 5, 2019. She then took the opportunity to set up a new laboratory at Buhler Group as a Food Science & Technology expert.
In her keynote speech, Béatrice Conde-Petit talked about molecular mechanisms of pizza dough, improving the shelf life of foods (e.g. bread), food safety (e.g. salmonella in spices), and future food production. While revealing episodes from her career Conde-Petit told us that she had been asked about her toolbox from a person outside her area. Since she didn’t have one, she developed her toolbox and used it in all projects, especially state diagrams. She also insisted at the ETH that she be allowed to analyse her research object “pizza dough” with other instruments. It is worth being persistent and linking methods from different areas.
The transition from academia and research to the private sector had been a happy coincidence for her. She had already been a consultant with the Buhler Group and, after not responding to the call to Vienna as a professor, was asked whether she would set up a new laboratory at Buhler Group. This career step was a new challenge, which she took up with respect but also joy.
The Buhler Group is a Swiss company founded in 1860 that is active worldwide in the sustainable food and feed industry, new technologies, and mobility. As Food Safety Officer, Conde-Petit was significantly in the driver seat to realize new innovations in food production. One example is a new technology for testing the quality of spices (e.g., salmonella). Today she is responsible for the “Future of Food Programs”. We currently consume 1.8 planets of resources worldwide. In the industrialized countries, the number is even higher. 1/3 of the energy consumed worldwide goes into food production and 70% of the water consumed comes from agriculture. In addition, 1/3 of the food produced goes to waste. This results in a food shortage on our planet in the medium term. We can counteract this by systematically changing the menu plan; for example with insects, algae, smaller amounts of animal protein and larger amounts of plants in our menu plan. In order to solve the food shortage and the food durability, the fermentation of food is also promising.
Béatrice Conde-Petit filled the SCS Aula with a lot of energy and inspired the participants with her experience and with the exciting topic “Innovation for the food production of the future” and at the same time gave a personal insight into her career. She is a woman of action and continuously promotes young talents in her industry.
She concluded her keynote by quoting Remo Largo: “The grass doesn’t grow faster when you pull it”. But we must be prepared to grab the ball when it is thrown at us, just as she accepted the position at Buhler Group.
After a lively round of discussions, we had further inspiring discussions at an aperitif.
We are all already looking forward to the next “SCS get together – Women in Engineering” event of SCS in spring 2020.