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Tara Wilson

Master’s student, Department of Food Science, Ontario Agricultural College (OAC)

Research focus: Improving dairy food quality at an on-farm processing facility 

Tara Wilson
Photo by Hanne Goetz

Prior to beginning her Master’s Degree by thesis in Food Science at the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), Tara Wilson completed her undergraduate degree in Applied Life Sciences with a concentration in Biological Medicine at Lakehead University. Having grown up with beef cattle and having an interest in food microbiology, Tara decided to pursue further education at the University of Guelph. When she met with Dr. Gisèle LaPointe, she knew this was the best fit for her interests and background, leading her into her current role.

Under the supervision of Dairy at Guelph Steering Committee members, Dr. Gisèle LaPointe and Dr. Michael Steele, Tara is conducting research at an on-farm cheese processing facility, studying how cheese quality and flavour in on-farm processing facilities. She explained that there has been a great deal of research investigating how processing environments affects things like cheese quality and flavour in industrial settings where milk from multiple farms is processed, where it is challenging to know how the environment influences cheese flavour since the milk comes from multiple sources. There haven’t been many studies conducted at facilities located at dairy farms.  

At the facility where Tara is working, the milk is collected and made into cheese within a day, so researchers can explore the impact of environmental factors specific to this environment. On her visits to the processing facility, she swabs a variety of building locations – walls, floors, and planks where the cheese sits – to understand the cheese-making ecosystem. At the same time, fellow master’s student, Lareina Xi, is investigating milk handling surfaces at the farm end of the pipeline. This project will help to understand how cheese flavour can be influenced based on environment.

Although she is nearly finished with her MSc project, Tara shared her enthusiasm for the field research she conducts: “I really enjoy the field research side of things. I like talking with producers and getting to hear their story. It’s great to see how much they love what they do.”

Her next goal is to begin data analysis in November and then planning for the next steps of her career. Tara is eager to continue research and hopes to pursue a Doctorate in Food Science or Dairy Nutrition. 

Written by Hanne Goetz

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