Food science student from Benin, Africa, dreams of feeding the world
While growing up in Benin in western Africa, Doriane Sossou saw how food insecurity affected those around her.
“I’m a very sensitive person,” she says. “When I see others not being able to even have one meal every day, it breaks my heart every time.”
Empathetic by nature, Doriane has always been interested in helping those around her and had dreams of making an impact on the world. She initially set her sights on becoming a physician.
After high school, she applied to a scholarship program in partnership with the European Union that allowed her to travel abroad to attend college. But because of the limited availability of the scholarships, admittance to her first-choice program of study was not guaranteed.
“The results came back, and they said I wasn’t selected for medicine,” she says. “I was very sad, and I wanted to turn down the scholarship I did get.”
I’m the kind of person who knows my final goals in life. Even if there are bumps on the road, I always come back and look at where I wanted to go from the beginning, and I keep going for it.Doriane Sossou
Senior, food science
But before she did, she decided to do some research on the program she was selected for: food science.
“It was not a field that a lot of people were studying in my country,” she says.
She discovered that food science was the perfect combination of two things she loved: science and humanitarianism. Instead of directly helping others live a healthier life like a physician would, she could instead help feed people and provide nutrition that’s essential to public health.
She enrolled in the program, studying for four years in Morocco, where she received a bachelor’s degree in food science. She enjoyed the program but knew she had more potential.
“I wanted to do more,” she says.
The program she completed taught her everything she needed to know about the theories of food science, but she craved hands-on experience that would propel her to the kind of career she wanted.
She wanted to change the world, and theory alone wouldn’t cut it.
“I’m the kind of person who knows my final goals in life,” she says. “Even if there are bumps on the road, I always come back and look at where I wanted to go from the beginning, and I keep going for it.”
A Vision of the Future
After getting advice from a handful of family friends who attended Purdue University, Doriane made the decision to get a second bachelor’s degree in the United States. She applied to Purdue’s food science program in the College of Agriculture and emigrated from Benin to the U.S. in 2019.
Now a senior, Doriane is set to graduate in December 2023, just three and a half years after her first semester at Purdue. Providing plenty of opportunities for her to gain hands-on, real-world experience, Purdue has helped her develop a new life’s mission: to improve food security across the globe.
“It would be great if everyone can fulfill their needs of three meals per day or two meals per day if they can, but I think what needs to be done is to think about solutions,” she says. “From our agriculture, the way we grow our crops, the way we process them and the way we make them safe and available to people, from the farmer to the plate.
“If we think and act on every step of the process and see if we can improve something, working this way will help the industry and even the world in general to achieve food security.”
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, between 702 million and 828 million people were affected by hunger in 2021. And Doriane’s home continent of Africa is one of the regions most affected. In 2021, 20% of people in Africa struggled with hunger issues, compared to less than 2.5% in North America and Europe.
Doriane hopes to use what she has learned at Purdue to lower these numbers one day, especially in her home country. But two bachelor’s degrees aren’t enough for Doriane – she knows that her dream to feed the world can only become a reality through action.
She’s spent time as a research assistant in Bruce Hamaker’s lab, where she was able to work on clinical studies on carbohydrates. She also works as a student contributor for the Food Entrepreneurship and Manufacturing Institute, where she works with entrepreneurs to improve their products, upscale their recipes and improve shelf life to ensure their product will be safe for consumers.
When she graduates, she hopes to apply her academic experience in a job that will not only jump-start her career but also help her narrow down a future thesis. After a few years in the workforce, she plans to attend graduate school to earn her master’s and PhD.
Although she is thousands of miles away from home, Doriane has been able to find a community that feels like home during her time at Purdue. She’s active in a handful of clubs – The Francophone Student Association at Purdue, the Purdue West Coast Swing Dance Society (Purdue Westies), the Salsa Dance Club and the Food Science Club.
In all she does, whether here at Purdue or in her future food science career, she is driven by a deep passion for helping others to live a better, healthier life. “I have this ability to adapt myself to a new environment,” she says. “It doesn’t take me long because that’s what I love doing. I love learning about people, cultures and food. It helps you connect to people.”
If we think and act on every step of the process and see if we can improve something, working this way will help the industry and even the world in general to achieve food security.Doriane Sossou Senior, food science