Passion for food leads Gaby Garzon to Frito-Lay internship in Mexico

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Gaby Garzon’s love of food extends far beyond the kitchen or campus dining hall. With a prestigious internship at Frito-Lay in Mexico last summer, the junior biological engineer in the food and bioprocessing option is working to be an innovator in the food industry.

Garzon, who was born in Ecuador and grew up in Mexico, moved to the United States three years ago to pursue a degree at Penn State. She said Penn State seemed like the perfect fit because of the University’s renowned engineering program and close proximity to family in Queens, New York.

Though she started her Penn State career as an industrial engineering major, she said she decided to switch to biological engineering during her sophomore year because of her interest in specializing in the food industry.

“I dream about food all the time,” Garzon said. “Because of that, I thought it would be so interesting to pursue a major that is ready to understand the mysteries behind the food that reaches your plate.”

In addition to learning in the classroom, Garzon has worked in two research labs over the past year.

During the spring 2015 semester, she participated in a lab under Jairam Vanamala, associate professor of food science, where her research focused on the effects food processing has on health.

Currently, she works in a lab with Ramaswamy Anantheswaran, professor of food science, which focuses more on enhancing and improving food processes. She is also collaborating with food science graduate student Saurabh Lele on his master’s thesis project that aims to look at processing methods to improve the beneficial compounds in tea.

In addition to working on these projects, Garzon said she is having fun being part of a team that will participate in the IFTSA & MARS Product Development Competition. They will develop a new product and create a business plan for it through marketing and production.

Her work in the lab helped her secure a coveted internship at Frito-Lay in Mexico where she landed the only spot in the research and development department.

In her role, she was given the responsibility of working on the launch of two innovation projects, and testing and creating solutions for new ideas and strategies that the company is trying to implement in the future.

She composed an instruction manual for a new prototype, held taste testing trials and sensory panels and communicated with other Frito-Lay plants around the world.

“It was such an amazing opportunity getting to work on the projects that Frito-Lay wants to see in the future,” she said. “I was able to meet and communicate with so many people within the company and in other plants such as Frito-Lay in the United Kingdom.”

Garzon said her goal of becoming a well-rounded person, understanding a little bit of everything and seizing new experiences keeps her motivated.

Her dream is to one day work for or own a company like Frito-Lay that produces food products, and she said the best way to reach that is to be exposed to a variety of opportunities in engineering, food science and business.

Garzon is going to the coast of France this summer as part of a language learning program. As a fluent Spanish speaker and former high school French student, she hopes to perfect the language during her time abroad.

She said she wants to graduate from Penn State having not missed out on anything.

After graduation, Garzon would like to work in research and development, creating new products for a food company. She hopes to be a part of the health movement within the fast food industry, creating easy, fast and nutritious on-the-go options that appeal to millennials.

Last Updated February 05, 2016