Portrait of Kate Peterson


Name: Kate Petersen
Hometown: Clear Lake
Major: Food science and technology
Position: Kerry Ingredients, graduate program doing research and development

With her grandpa and both parents as University of Wisconsin-River Falls alumni, it wasn’t a surprise that Kate Petersen wound up a Falcon. 

Cementing her decision to attend UWRF was the fact that Petersen wanted to work in food science, and the university is renowned for his work in that field.

What Petersen didn't anticipate, however, was the personal growth she would undergo during her time at UWRF, which will culminate in her May 6 graduation. Her involvement in multiple research projects, serving as president of the Food Science Club, and other out-of-class endeavors led to her development and made possible her landing a job before she graduates. 

Petersen, a food science and technology major, has been hired to conduct research and development for Kerry Ingredients, a division of Ireland-based Kerry Group that produces a variety of food ingredients. Petersen will work in the company’s Beloit location. 

“Without the experiences I’ve had at UWRF, I don’t think I would have gotten this job,” Petersen said. “Those experiences really advanced my leadership skills and boosted my confidence … I’ve always been a good student, but my leadership and public speaking skills, my comfort meeting people in professional settings, those skills were really developed because of my time at UWRF.”

Petersen praised UWRF faculty for taking a sincere interest in students, for challenging them to do better while providing them with the support to do so. She credits Grace Lewis, an assistant professor in UWRF’s food science program, with helping her not only learn but develop confidence. 

“She provided me with multiple opportunities to be on food competition teams and with research opportunities that not only taught me more about food science, but many other valuable skills,” Petersen said.  

Petersen’s research with Lewis helped her build a resume that allows her to stand out to employers. Other opportunities also provided her with valuable learning and experience, Petersen said, even when they proved to not be exactly what she was looking for in a job.

“I did a quality assurance internship early on in my career, and I didn’t really love it,” Petersen recalled. “But there was value in that. It taught me that wasn’t what I was looking for, and it helped push me toward what I really want to do.”

Another experience that led Petersen toward her preferred career path was research she worked on with Lewis that studied how to break down milk proteins and bring them back together for use in future applications for better administering medicines, vitamins, or other nutritional components. That project – which began last summer and is funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub of Wisconsin – has been instrumental in pointing Petersen in the right direction, she said. 

“That project has opened up a lot of avenues for me in terms of meeting people and realizing that research is something that I want to do,” Petersen said, noting that she presented that work three times, including at the state Capitol in Madison in April. 

As she reflects on her UWRF career, Petersen urges young students to get to know their peers and get involved with numerous clubs and other activities. Taking advantage of the many opportunities available at UWRF can only help students attain the jobs they want in the future, she said. 

“It really helps if you can view everything as an opportunity to help you down the road,” she said. 

Her research at UWRF sets her up to do well in her job with Kerry Ingredients, Petersen said. 

“I’m very excited about my new job, and about moving to an area where I’ve never lived before,” Petersen said. “My time at UWRF helped make this job possible, and I’m very grateful for that.”