Visiting Charlie Tuna: Food Science Major Interns at StarKist

Posted: March 24, 2014

Putting her dislike of seafood aside, sophomore Monica Caparosa jumped at the chance to intern with one of the leading seafood companies in the country. From May through July 2013, her days were filled with various tasks -- including sampling the tuna.
Monica Caparosa worked in research and development and quality-assurance at the company's Pittsburgh headquarters.

Monica Caparosa worked in research and development and quality-assurance at the company's Pittsburgh headquarters.

"But there wasn't a single day when I woke up and didn't want to go to work," she said.

As a research and development and quality-assurance intern at StarKist's Pittsburgh headquarters, Caparosa's responsibilities included contacting ingredient suppliers and making sure all of their documentation was on file, grading products (to be sure the tuna met StarKist's quality standards), researching crystal formation and analyzing the data.

Crystals form in seafood when certain chemicals and compounds are present in concentration after the product is packaged. Caparosa's research focused on the effects of the products used to prevent the formation of these crystals.

The Butler, Pa., native was able to put knowledge from her classes to good use. Her chemistry classes were beneficial when researching the crystals, and the internship fit well with the curriculum of her Food Science major.

"It was nice to see that the material covered in my classes is relevant in the real world," Caparosa said. "I was able to apply what I've learned in different settings, which has given me a new outlook on my education."

And, as it turned out, her aversion to seafood was welcomed by the marketing team as a valuable perspective. "They wanted a non-seafood eater's opinion, so they really took what I said to heart."

The work environment was friendly, so Caparosa did not hesitate to make plans to continue her work at the company over Thanksgiving and winter breaks -- Starkist has kept her on the payroll so she can return to help the staff catch up with other projects.

Caparosa has always had an interest in food, especially the creative aspect of it. "For example, if you walk down the cereal aisle at the grocery store, there are so many variations -- fruity, healthy, nutty, earthy -- you can add the color to the Fruity Pebbles, or give it the earthy look of Kashi," she explained.

"You can express yourself through food, and I think that's really cool. This internship was confirmation that working with food is what I want to do with my life."

Learn more about the Food Science major.