on the job: george lanter

What is your job and how long have you been with the UI?

I'm a dairy and food plant attendant at the pilot processing plant.

A pilot processing plant is a smaller version of what's happening in industry. We have the same equipment as food processing plants, but in a scaled down version. I started at the UI in 1976 in the Dairy Manufacturing Building. I'm in the department of food science and human nutrition.

What does your job entail?

My work has changed tremendously over the past couple of years, but my job has three basic areas. I run the food-processing equipment for the food science and human nutrition classes in the pilot processing plant. I set up the equipment, get the raw materials and schedule the [use of] equipment. The second area is research. There is a lot of research in the department by our graduate students and from neighboring departments. I make sure they have the supplies and equipment they need and adapt equipment for the research. I try to keep costs low by begging or borrowing items and picking people's brains to build the equipment they need, if possible. I also do maintenance. There are 80 pieces of equipment, pumps and electrical systems. I keep it all in working order. I instruct the graduate students on how to run the equipment. We have a large refrigeration system that I also maintain. I also schedule major repairs with the physical plant. In addition, I serve on the Ag Engineering Open House steering committee. We begin planning the event in October and it's usually held in late February or early March. I also work with the Food Science and Human Nutrition Club and help with their activities throughout the year. I also give tours to high school students, prospective students, dignitaries, professors from the UI and other universities, public groups and students from other colleges at the UI.

What kind of equipment do you have in the labs?

We're fortunate to be able to offer students a wide variety of processing techniques. We can do pasteurization, homogenization, separation, freeze drying, canning, steam canning, ultra-high-temperature pasteurization, cheese making for cottage and cheddar cheeses, evaporation processes, steam oven drying of grains and other materials, an extruder, a variety of steam kettles for working with oils and various other liquids, a steam blanching table for vegetables and fruit, cold rooms to store products at different temperatures (a minus 20 F large walk-in freezer, a minus 10 F room and a zero F room and a 34-degree refrigerated walk-in area). We also have a large 3,000 gallon ice-building system which pumps water to various parts of the pilot plant to serve our processing needs.

What do you enjoy about this job?

I'm fortunate to be part of a department that's continually growing in size and stature. It's exciting for me. The administration encourages us to grow with it and take on new responsibilities. Also I've maintained a lot of friendships with people who have graduated and are all over the country. One of the best things about the job is we're doing something to help people. Food is very international. We help our own farmers as well as farmers throughout the world. I'm lucky to be involved with the best and brightest and can help in my small way. It's a satisfying way for me to spend my life.

­ Nancy Koeneman

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