As part of a large public research university, Dawn Aubrey has a wealth of brainpower at her disposal. Here are three ways she has partnered with other departments on campus to formulate a stealable idea or two.
1. Collaborator: Department of Human Sciences and Nutrition
Tomatoes grown on campus are sent to the Food Science and Human Nutrition Pilot Plant for processing into sauces and purees. The tomato skins traditionally become a waste product, but Dining Services is dehydrating them for use in cream cheese and other foods instead.
2. Collaborator: Research Park tech incubator
Here’s where triple-point chemistry and Aubrey’s science background come into play. A discussion at the gym with Bruce Elliott-Litchfield—professor in the Technology Entrepreneur Center—about his Sun Bucket project led Aubrey to become “so geeked” about the possibilities. Sun Buckets collect, store and recover solar energy to generate heat for cooking, with potential implications as a fuel source for third-world countries. When it comes to Dining Services, Aubrey is hoping to showcase the Sun Buckets as a cooking method during the university’s upcoming sesquicentennial celebration in April.
3. Collaborator: College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
It was a conversation with another Bruce—Bruce Branham, professor of crop sciences—that led to this particular collaboration. “I told him the ag school needed to start growing for Dining Services,” Aubrey says. The two departments paired up to secure a grant for winter wheat, which was planted in 2016 and will be harvested in the spring and ground by the Nutrition Pilot Plant. It’s been a learning process for all parties involved; because the wheat is an heirloom varietal, it has a very different nutritional structure from standard plants, so pastry chefs have been testing its reaction to yeast and ratios for recipes for baked treats.