Student Spotlight: David Kodama

October 30, 2018

By Darian Leddy

head shot of david kodama

For third-year student David Kodama, possessing a variety of knowledge and experiencing all that you can is the key to success. Coming into his freshman year at the University of Minnesota, David knew he wanted to find a program that would help him achieve these goals. After talking with his advisor, he discovered the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering and has since accomplished all that he wanted and more.

David is majoring in bioproducts and biosystems engineering with a specialization in food engineering and minoring in environmental science, policy, and management. Moving from Riverside, IL, he wanted to attend a college that was affordable and located in an area with many job opportunities in the food engineering area. The U of M had both of these aspects, but what ultimately sold him on the university was the friendly and social atmosphere.

His passion for food systems was sparked in an unlikely place. During his freshman year high school English class, his teacher assigned many novels about the environment. For the class’ final project, he researched vertical farming, which is when skyscrapers are transformed into farms. This idea fascinated him, and since then, he has devoted his studies and future career to creating a greener Earth, specifically improving food systems. David said, “That’s how I kind of grew interested in this. I saw what a great impact that improving food systems could have.”

He actually got the opportunity to improve food systems first-hand through his internship at Seneca Foods in Montgomery, MN this summer. He found out about this position through the Ag, Food, and Business Career Fair and applied last December. After two different interviews, David was hired as a quality control intern. His job was to make sure they were producing safe and quality food in a secure facility. This was checked by ensuring the packaging was up to standard, testing questionable products, and swabbing the equipment and the entire workplace for dangerous bacteria. David was even able to do some taste testing, which wasn’t as simple as it sounds for he had to take a class on how to effectively chew the food to make sure it was adequate for sale. Through this internship, he was able to use the knowledge he learned in his classes directly into the workforce.

David believes that learning never stops, even outside of the classroom.

“I like learning all the time. I think you should never stop learning. There’s always something to gain from every opportunity and experience,” he said.

He never passes up an opportunity to learn whether it is from his internship, coursework, or one of the many student groups he is a part of. He is the outreach and recruitment chair for the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, the secretary for his fraternity Sigma Pi, a member on the sustainability committee of Minnesota Student Association, and a member of the Food and Bioproducts Engineering Organization. He has found these groups to not only support his interests, but also make lifelong friends.

David has achieved so much within the couple years he's been in the BBE program.

“The department has given me a quality and supportive community here. Not only are my fellow students really supportive, but the faculty is as well, and I feel like I am able to talk to them as people and not as superiors,” he said.

David was able to find his passion with the help of the department faculty, and although he isn’t completely sure where he wants to take his degree (possibly an environmental lawyer, an engineer, or a researcher), he knows he is in the right place right now.