Sabrina (Chen) Young (’04 BS, Biology)
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Dallas, TX. I moved around a lot in between the west coast and east coast, but I am currently back in Austin, TX.
Why did you choose to attend UTA?
My parents divorced at the end of my junior year in high school, and my mom was struggling as a single parent. I really wanted the college experience of living on campus, but I also wanted to be close to help support her and my younger brother.
What did you study at UTA? What attracted you to that field?
Biology. Science fascinated me as a young child, and I loved learning about animals, plants, and the human body (thanks to the encyclopedias that were lying around my house). I was originally planning on attending medical school after my undergraduate degree, so I wanted to make sure I had a strong foundation in science.
Describe your UTA experience. How did UTA help prepare you for your career?
I loved the tight-knit community among the students. One of my classmates formed Project Progeria, a club to raise funds for a genetic disease that causes aging in young children. We raised funds for a worthy cause, but we also enjoyed being together. In addition, since the science department was small, I also made it a point to meet students from other majors through Christians on Campus. Even though I was always studying, I'd join them occasionally for late-night sand volleyball at the dorms, ultimate frisbee, and cross-country summer and spring break trips.
Dr. (Jimmy) Rogers' chemistry classes are the best; he's an amazing person and professor. I loved how he would get excited about what he's talking about, or a dad joke he was about to drop; he got a little bounce and his eyes sparkled. I actually use a lot of what I learned from his class at work today. Quite a few of my science classes were really helpful in providing the foundation that I needed for advanced science, so the degree was definitely worth the blood, sweat, and tears.
What is your current professional position? What do you do in this role?
I am a senior food scientist at Siete Family Foods.
Every day is different, but I work on formulation development and then translate it to large scale development with manufacturing equipment. Formulation development depends on using both science and art to bring ingredients together, creating a product that the customer will love for the desired shelf life. If you want your chips to be crunchy and delicious for six months, you're thinking not only of the ingredients that go into it, but also how the product will need to look and the type of packaging you will need. Obviously, that means lots of tasting and lab testing! Once the formula is ready, the scale up part requires the application of food engineering principles to ensure the product made on the line is the same as the product made in the lab or kitchen.
Describe your path to your current position. What have you learned along the way?
After working briefly in clinical research, I attended McGill University in Montréal for my master's in food science.
1) I've learned that we all have our own timing and path to take. Some people know what they want to do right away, but for some of us, it takes a little more time to figure it out.
2) If no one wants to open a door for you and you know what you want, don't be afraid to ask someone to try to create your own opportunity.
3) If you can find a good mentor, it can make a huge difference in your career.
What's one lesson you learned at UTA that has stayed with you still today?
Make friends with people outside your major, profession, and beliefs. It helps prevent echo chambers and widens your worldview. Sometimes you can get inspiration or a new way to solve a problem by being around people that think differently than you.
What message do you have for the next generation of UTA graduates?
If you can, apply for internships. It really helps you figure out what you want to do before time and money is spent on a degree that might not work for you. If a company you admire doesn't have one available, it doesn't hurt to ask. Sometimes asking gives companies the push they need if they were considering it.