Heidi Mencl from Hershey, Pa., received the $1,500 Pennsylvania Dairy Innovation Scholarship provided to the Penn State University Department of Food Science from Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program.

“We are pleased to present this scholarship to a student who is undoubtedly an investment in the future of the dairy industry,” said Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program Chair Lolly Lesher of Bernville, Pa. “Heidi Mencl is just what our industry needs – smart, eager and an innovative thinker – who is interested in meeting the every-changing demands of consumers through dairy research and development.”

Mencl is a senior studying food science in the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, with graduation set for May 2024. She is working toward the completion of her Penn State Schreyer Honors thesis that focuses on research for developing a safe, sustainable food packaging that inhibits bacterial growth to improve food safety in all food products. She is conducting undergraduate research in the food microbiology laboratory on campus around this topic.

Mencl’s dairy interests were sparked when working on her family’s dairy farm in the Czech Republic, where she learned how to make yogurts and cheeses. She also completed a research and development internship with Hood this summer, where she worked on the ice cream team and developed her own ice cream flavor, a mango sticky rice ice cream.

Mencl says, “Dairy is often underappreciated and sometimes criticized, but it is a staple food. As society moves toward plant-based alternatives, it’s important to keep dairy safe and environmentally sustainable.”