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The Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology

Katherine Nathania

Food Science and Nutrition Student Spotlight: Katherine Nathania

(June 26, 2023) -- Congratulations to recent graduate Katherine Nathania who won the Distinguished International Undergraduate Award at the Fresno State International Convocation this spring.

The native of Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia comes from a proud family of #FresnoStateAlum, and has taken full advantage of our Food Science and Nutrition Department. Besides taking classes and working at our campus creamery, she has partnered with faculty and industry to develop a coffee-infused cheese for an internship and senior research project.

She now looks forward to starting a Fresno State master’s degree this fall and working on another research project that balances product innovation and sustainability by incorporating dairy whey by-products in the beer brewing process.

Read more about her interesting background in this recent interview.


Q: Why did you choose to attend Fresno State, and how did you pick your major?

“Fresno State has always been one of my top choices. I came from a Bulldog family, and both of my parents are alumni. However, the reason I picked Fresno State is because of my major. Fresno State is at the heart of San Joaquin Valley, and it has one of the most amazing agriculture-related programs. Furthermore, our faculty members have impressive experience in their respective fields, and there are many opportunities available for us upon graduation.”


Katherine Nathania and familyQ: Did you have any other family members graduate or attend Fresno State?

“I have a Bulldog Family and am Bulldog Born, Bulldog Bred. Both of my parents were business administration degree recipients, and my father (Winata Prayitno) had a system information option and my mother (Merlinda Koeswanto) had a finance option. My sister (Kaylin Prayitno) is also a food and nutritional sciences student focused on a culinology option. We have been interviewed and featured a few times by the campus international office.”

Q: Which classes & faculty members have had the biggest influence on you while at Fresno State?

“In the beginning, I took the Introduction to Food Science (FSC 1) class with Dr. Erin Stafford Dormedy, and she has been a big influence on my pursuit of the degree. It’s a very challenging and fun major, and all of my FSC classes definitely have their own influences. However, the biggest influence was the dairy processing class, where I learned more about the dairy industry. Dr. Carmen Licon definitely played the biggest role in keeping me interested and engaged with research and development. Not only does she provide the opportunity for some Fresno State students to study abroad in Mexico, but she also connected me with internship opportunities.”

Katherine NathaniaQ: Talk about which campus farm units you have worked at, and skills you have learned that you can apply to your career.

“I worked in the campus creamery unit as a student assistant, and that experience gave me a better understanding of a more efficient workflow, and not just learning the theory, but knowing how the application truly works.”

“I was able to apply what I learned in classes and get hands-on experience in areas like production, cleaning, and sanitizing of dairy product equipment, record keeping (production, inventory, item tagging), training, and supervising new hires on standard operating procedures. I was also involved with research and development on existing and new ice cream products, and maintaining proper labeling of food products, office operations, and database management.”


Katherine NathaniaQ: Have you been involved with research on campus, and how will it benefit your career path?

“Yes, since I want to focus more on research and development in my career, research opportunities on campus definitely have given me a headstart.”

“In a project entitled “Upcycling Spent Coffee Grounds by Incorporation on Cheese Rind”, we made Manchego-style cheese, and then covered the rind with treated, spent coffee grounds. A main motivation was to appeal to artisanal cheese makers to produce a unique, added-value product while utilizing byproducts (coffee grounds) that are generated in substantial amounts every day.”

“I did this project as my senior project (FSC 190 - Independent Study) as well as my internship, and my advisors were faculty Dr. Carmen Licon and Veronique Lagrange from the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) - California Dairy Innovation Center (CDIC).”

“I chose this project because:

  • California is the nation's largest milk producer and creates many dairy products.
  • It has a dynamic and enthusiastic cheese community that is actively producing and crafting artisanal cheeses.
  • There are many ways to increase the value of cheese: modifications in production practices, aging techniques, and diversifying ingredients.”

“I chose coffee because:

  • The coffee industry is growing fast and produces a considerable amount of waste coffee that is readily utilizable.
  • There is an urgent need for practical and innovative ways to use this low-cost, spent coffee ground and exploit its full potential while increasing overall sustainability.
  • I wanted to study a feasible application of its incorporation into food products.”

“In order to make the coffee grounds stick on the cheese surface, we needed something to act like a ‘glue’  I picked a lard and olive oil mixture, something that has been used for a long time and that people are more familiar with. Another alternative is using an enzyme called Transglutaminase, which is most commonly used as a meat glue. Variables we tracked included the physiochemical properties (fat, salt, moisture, protein%),, microbial analysis, and sensory attributes. (Link to HIPs presentation slide:”

Q: What was your background in agriculture before you started at Fresno State?

“To be fair, I had no prior agriculture experience before starting at Fresno State. I only know basic things from touring farms/production plants back in Indonesia and other countries.”


Q: Are you a part of any other clubs/organizations at Fresno State and involved in any noteworthy activities?

“I am part of the Food Science and Culinology Club, and I actively engaged with the San Joaquin Chapter of the Institute of Food Technologists. I worked with them at conferences and at fundraising activities and promoted the organization within our club, too.”

Q: Have you received any scholarships related to campus, the Jordan College or Ag One?  

“Yes, I have received a couple of scholarships/grants, which included the Mary K. Alexander Scholarship, Ag One-RCO Ag Credit, Inc./Glen N. Janzen Scholarship, Kirk A. Baucher Memorial Scholarship, Ag One-Ross Borba, Sr. Family Scholarship, and Jordan Graduate Award.


Q: Have you overcome any challenges to get where you are today that have shaped who you are?

“Yes, being an international student, I have my own advantages and disadvantages; but definitely many challenges. Being able to effectively communicate with the people around me was definitely my biggest challenge during my undergraduate years. After I worked in the creamery for a while, I was able to communicate more effectively, and that has been a great help with opening up new opportunities for me and everyone else.”