The Department of Food Science recently received approval from UW-Madison’s University Academic Planning Council to launch a new certificate in fermented food and beverages. The certificate, which is open to UW–Madison undergraduates in any major, provides the opportunity for students to develop skills and knowledge in the science, production and marketing of fermented foods and beverages.

Students can enroll in the Fermented Food and Beverages Certificate beginning with the fall 2024 semester. All students will receive a foundation in the science of fermentation, and the certificate allows students to further personalize their coursework with one of two themes: science or business. In the science-based theme, they will deepen their knowledge with a focus on chemistry, genetics or microbiology. In the business-related theme, students will focus on marketing, supply chains or management.

This certificate is designed with ample electives spread across a wide spectrum of majors. Core courses do not have pre-requisites outside of the certificate, and classes will incorporate relevant elementary concepts during the introduction of each module. Students with a variety of backgrounds and career goals will benefit given the scientific and business themes represented within the certificate.

“The purpose of this certificate program is to provide undergraduates at UW–Madison with an opportunity to gain unique knowledge and skill sets specific to the fermented foods and beverages industries, as well as broaden their knowledge of the role of fermentation in decarbonizing the economy,” says Victor Ujor, assistant professor of food science and certificate leader.

The program introduces students to the theoretical and practical aspects of food and beverage fermentation through required introductory coursework, and experiential learning courses emphasize a hands-on approach. Sourdough, kimchi, beer, sauerkraut, cheese, wine and yogurt are among the food products explored in required coursework.

The certificate also allows students to engage with cutting-edge developments in the use of precision fermentation for food and non-food applications. Students interested in finding solutions to global environmental challenges can examine the role of fermentation in the development of sustainable feedstocks, renewable materials and biofuels.

“There is broad interest in the field of fermentation science from students in food science and other areas,” says Ujor. “Also, it is expected that demand for fermented products and, therefore, fermentation jobs will grow significantly over the next two decades. The certificate promises to meet a growing industry need that only stands to expand.”