By Juliana Palomino
Through her work as an engineer, a small-town Kentucky girl is seeing a whole new side of her state.
A biosystems engineering major at the University of Kentucky, senior Megan Davisson has found a true passion in the alcohol industry. Her academic focus in bioprocess food engineering landed her a summer internship with Alltech.
“I worked in their research lab and helped develop a lager for their line,” she says. “That internship made me really passionate about this industry.”
Since this experience, Megan’s fascination with the field has continued to grow; she’s even pursued it as a hobby by purchasing a home brew kit. She’s taken multiple classes on spirit chemistry and bourbon production engineering and is eager to learn more—especially because of her Kentucky roots.
“Even being from Kentucky, I didn’t realize how important this industry is to the state, and how much Kentucky is built on its back,” says Megan. “I’ve learned how each part of the distilling process relies on different parts of Kentucky.”
In her first biosystems engineering class as a freshman, Megan’s professors showcased the crucial difference that bioprocessing makes in the world.
“Today’s world has enormous problems with overpopulation and food production,” she explains. “The idea behind this field is that we will help maximize nutrition and food production. We find ways to make what we have stretch further for everyone so we can prevent future crises.”
Drawn by this ability to make a difference, Megan threw herself wholeheartedly into the field. Working as a research assistant in UK’s food engineering lab has given her an even broader appreciation for biosystems engineering.
“We’re working on building a nutritious snack for developing countries that’s kind of like Cheetos, but it’s higher in protein because it’s millet-based,” says Megan. “It uses spent grains from breweries and distilleries to make a healthy food that can benefit people in other countries.”
Many faculty members, from lab directors to professors, have made a huge difference for Megan. When she looks back at her years at UK, she sees individual people as guideposts for her along the way.
“Biosystems engineering offers so much that you can’t see from the outside. Everyone tells you that at a big university you’ll just be a number, but it’s not like that here,” Megan reflects. “My professors have encouraged me to keep going, even when a problem feels like the end of the world. They truly have my back.”
Upon graduating in May 2019, Megan plans to keep working in the food processing industry.
“I love this field because you know that what you’re doing will truly make a difference for people,” she says. “You’re working to improve products that others use and enjoy every day. It’s given me a new appreciation for the daily products we consume, and the work that goes into them.”