UCLA Students Learn the Delicious Side of Food Science

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Photo by Renee Suen on Flickr

While LAUSD might be cutting back on any education outside of the core classes, one California university — UCLA — is expanding on its science curriculum in the coolest of ways. They're offering a class called Physiological Sciences 7, a course that focusses on science and food.

It's taught by Professor Amy Rowat, a 37-year-old Canadian biophysicist who got the idea from a similar course taught at Harvard University called Science and Cooking.

Rowat has brought in some amazing guests for the class, including Brazilian chef Alex Atala, "Top Chef" champ and Ink owner Michael Voltaggio, Chez Panisse owner Alice Waters, and Momofuku Milk Bar founder Christina Tosi. (The guests were also part of a public lecture series at UCLA connected with the program.)

Twenty five percent of their final grade will hinge on what might be the world's first "scientific bake-off" — a glitzy competition to create an American classic: apple pie. Their critics are no slouches; the test will be judged by food critic Jonathan Gold, pastry chef Zoe Nathan of Huckleberry, and Evan Kleiman, who hosts the annual KCRW "Good Food" pie contest at LACMA.

By that point, they'll have turned pie making into an exacting science. Says the L.A. Times:

Students will assess the "structural stability" of their crusts, calculating pastry density using kitchen scales. They'll dip strips of litmus paper into pie fillings to measure pH and gauge whether Granny Smith apples' acidity makes them better or worse in a pie, or how acid affects the way custards congeal in a filling.They'll use math equations that include pi.

And they'll learn whether good science makes good pies.

"I'm a science major, and this has been really hard," said Neil Brinckerhoff, a human biology and society student. "It's a lot of different concepts in one class."

Sounds like the kind of applied science we could get behind.