The Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) program is a highly selective global leadership program established for new professionals in the science of food who are eager to expand their leadership and networking skills in order to enhance and grow their careers. In 2020, the ELN program included a total of 42 participants—14 from academia, one from government, and 27 from industry. The cohort was comprised of 32 women and 10 men from seven countries.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the ELN program transitioned to a virtual platform this year. The participants watched recorded sessions and completed quizzes each week for five weeks this summer. They then met on Zoom for two hours every Wednesday for discussions and guest speaker presentations.
Of the 42 program participants, five were selected to receive the ELN Award, which is presented to new professionals in the science of food who demonstrate high potential for success in leadership roles and a strong commitment to the profession.
This year’s group of illustrious young achievers includes the following individuals:
Courtney Gwinn is a senior food scientist at Griffith Foods, where she is responsible for developing snack seasonings and actively contributes to the company’s health and nutrition efforts. Before her career at Griffith Foods, Gwinn received her BS in food science from Purdue University in 2013. She is actively involved in the Chicago Section of IFT, where she is currently serving as chair. Gwinn received the Chicago Section’s first New Member Award, recognizing her extraordinary volunteer service within the first five years of membership.
Ghadeer Makki currently works as a research scientist with Fairlife, focusing on dairy fermentation research and process/product optimization projects. She holds an MS in dairy science and a master’s of professional studies in food science from Cornell University. Makki also holds a bachelor’s of pharmacy degree from Ain Shams University, Egypt. She is a member of the leadership team for the IFT Product Development Division, where she served as a student representative. Prior to her time at Cornell, Makki held various positions in product development and quality assurance in multinational food companies, fostering her passion for food science.
Shintaro Pang is a senior R&D scientist at General Mills. He received his BS in food science from Brigham Young University in 2012 and PhD in food science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) in 2016. In his current role, he leverages his food science knowledge to execute the commercialization of natural and organic bars, granola, and cereal. He has a wide variety of past research experience, including the development of refrigerated canned dough products for the Pillsbury brand, identifying new analytical methods to detect food contaminants, and measuring the stability of micronutrients in food.
Minqi Wang is a food scientist, entrepreneur, musician, and registered yoga teacher. After graduating from UMass with a PhD, Wang discovered her passion for entrepreneurship. She founded her first startup, Vegeply, in 2019, producing snacks and beverages that contain 100% of the daily value of natural-source vitamin B12 for plant-based dieters. In 2020, Wang received the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Award to support Nutriply, a startup commercializing an encapsulation technology developed at David Julian McClements’ lab at UMass. Currently, Wang serves as the chair of the IFT Nutrition Division.
Shantrell Willis obtained her bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD in food science with a concentration in nutritional biochemistry from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University (AAMU). She currently serves as a research scientist and adjunct food science faculty member at AAMU, where she studies phytochemicals and how they may prevent chronic diseases. Willis has been involved in IFT at the local, regional, and national levels, and is a past recipient of the IFTSA Excellence in Leadership Award (Graduate). In addition to serving as a staff advisor of the AAMU Chapter of IFTSA, Willis is a director-at-large of the IFT South Eastern Section and is a current member of the IFT New Professionals Work Group.