Bzzzz! “Anosmia!” shouted BYU dietetics major Maggie Horlacher (‘23). The announcer had barely finished reading the question about the loss of the ability to detect different smells.
Horlacher competed with six other teammates studying food science, including graduate student Jeremy Pack (‘22), master’s student Tyler Jarrard (‘23), graduate student Reece Larsen (‘22), undergraduate student Kanae Lee (‘23), and undergraduate student Rachel Pierce (‘23). They won first place at the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association (IFT) College Bowl Regional Competition in Corvallis, Oregon.
The IFT officials pull a range of questions from 17 different categories, including nutrition, food chemistry, biotechnology, and even food packaging. The students are assigned certain categories and work all semester to become experts on their subjects. They learn to trust and rely on each other in the moment.
“It encourages excitement in learning new things,” says Pack. “It’s almost a lifestyle. You just nerd out, and that’s what is enjoyable about it.”
Each round has 20 questions, and each correct question is worth four points. If the answer is wrong, the team loses two points. Bonus questions also come every five questions where the team can collaborate on an answer.
Nutrition, Dietetics & Food Science professor Laura Jefferies prepped the 2021-2022 Food Science College Bowl team by holding weekly meetings. The students review hundreds of questions and even break out the buzzers to practice answering under pressure.
Jefferies won nationals in 1997 as a BYU student and even got her face on a box of Wheaties! Her experience and love for the competition has rubbed off on all her students.
“It’s my passion. I have always enjoyed trivia, but I am also naturally competitive,” Jefferies says. “It’s a completely different kind of class."
BYU has won the national title four times. They tie with several other schools for the most wins since the competition began in 1985. Jefferies has confidence that the team can bring home the title again this year.
Students look forward to the next level as they continue meeting regularly to prepare over the summer. The students will advance to the IFT national competition representing the Pacific Northwest section, held in Chicago from July 10 – 13.
“Even if they hadn’t won, the way they performed was amazing. There was nobody even close to them,” Jefferies says. “The comradery and sense of pride of accomplishing something and being out there says that even though we are small program, we are a good program.”