Student Packaging Research

The 2023 Inaugural Student and Faculty Research Program—"Keep It Fresh!"— is a collaboration between RIT, Binghamton University, Clarkson University, and Cornell University. The program enables students to propose, research, develop, and design solutions to real world environmental challenges by funding student-driven research projects focused on a defined sustainability topic. It is meant to foster creative thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and collaboration across disciplines.

The 2023 research theme was focused on packaging technologies and their applicability to reduce food spoilage.

orange and green Keep It Fresh! logo with calendar graphic

Inaugural NYSP2I Student Packaging Research Symposium

Friday, September 29, 2023
Binghamton University

A look at the 2023 student projects

screen shot of zoom call with advisors and students

Monthly check-in meetings allow teams to collaborate remotely and share findings.

The Binghamton team is examining the information and prevailing attitude-based factors that affect individual decision-making when it comes to the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food packaging. The research is investigating the role that consumer perception of PFAS in food packaging has when used in products like meal kits, and considers the current adoption of alternative food packaging by business owners. The project would offer clues to bridging specific gaps in eliminating harmful packaging from the ecosystem while also determining any increase in food waste and spoilage through the use of alternative, PFAS-free food containers.

Faculty PI advisor:

  • Nirav Patel, Lecturer, Environmental Studies Program

Student participants (lead listed first):

  • Liam Charles, Environmental Studies (Graduate)
  • Ryan Brannigan, Environmental Studies (Undergraduate)
  • Emily Bridgeford, Environmental Studies (Undergraduate)
  • Justin Havemeyer, Biology (Undergraduate)

Clarkson’s team is working to test the effectiveness of a novel biocompatible packaging that can not only prevent spoilage, but actively monitor the quality of stored food. The packaging utilizes a unique combination of natural biodegradable polymers reinforced with nanocellulose (CNC) to enhance its mechanical strength and serve as a barrier for microorganisms and gases. It features sensors to identify the release of spoilage biomarkers. The work aims to demonstrate effectiveness of new CNC-based hydrogels as a sustainable package for storing food.

Faculty PI advisor:

  • Silvana Andreescu, Egon Matijević Endowed Chair in Chemistry and Professor of Bioanalytical Chemistry

Student participants (lead listed first):

  • Oluwatosin Popoola, Chemistry (Graduate)
  • Aqsa Khan, Materials Science (Graduate)
  • Ivy Dong, Biomolecular Science (Undergraduate)

As a collaboration between Cornell’s food science and global development departments, this project seeks to catalog and test current food packaging technologies and designs used to mitigate food spoilage. It also seeks to understand the opportunities, constraints, and consequences of the use of current technologies and designs, with the understanding that they may differ among actors along the supply chain. Finally, the project aims to identify interventions needed to scale effective packaging technologies and designs.

Faculty PI advisors:

  • Julie Goddard, Professor, Department of Food Science
  • Lori Leonard, Professor and Chair, Department of Global Development

Student participants (lead listed first):

  • Sidney Madsen - Global Development (Graduate)
  • Megan Jen - Food Science Summer Scholar's Program (Undergraduate)
  • Christelle Reppen - Food Science (Graduate)

The RIT team’s goal is to develop and evaluate an antimicrobial active packaging system that uses essential oils to extend the shelf life of food products. Essential oils are a promising natural packaging solution because of their potent antimicrobial properties and high antioxidant activity. By incorporating essential oils into food packaging, the team will attempt to create a product that could significantly lengthen the shelf life of tomatoes in order to reduce food waste. Paperboard trays will be coated with varying concentrations of different oils such as thyme and oregano.

Faculty PI advisor:

  • Kyle Dunno, Assistant Professor, Department of Packaging and Graphic Media Science

Student participants (lead listed first):

  • Kassidy Burrows, Packaging Science (Undergraduate)
  • Baylee West, Packaging Science (Undergraduate)
  • Daniel Pinigin, Packaging Science (Undergraduate)