ASU Fermentation Sciences Program Continues Growth (2018-08-09 15:17:19)

The idea of crafting beer might get prospective students’ attention, but in fermentation sciences, students tap into much more than kegs.

When Dr. Stephan Sommer, interim director of Appalachian State University’s fermentation sciences program, joined the university in 2013, there were 35 students in the program, which focused mainly on beer and wine. The degree program now has 150 students and has expanded its focus to include biofuels, fermented foods, distillation and more.

In order to strengthen and support that growth, the degree program is adding faculty and, beginning this fall, the fermentation sciences program within the College of Arts and Sciences will become part of the new A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences.

According to Dr. Neva J. Specht, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, this new department structure makes sense, as many chemistry faculty members teach fermentation sciences courses, and students in the fermentation sciences degree program are required to take 19 credit hours of chemistry courses.

“With the addition of two new tenure track faculty this fall, the degree program will be able to offer a greater variety of courses,” Specht said. “We are also adding additional research and lab space this summer. The fermentation sciences degree program continues to grow and offer more opportunities for students to explore the various fermented processes and to make connections within the industry for internship and job opportunities.”

Within industrial fermentation, the craft beer industry alone has seen substantial growth since Appalachian became the first university on the East Coast to offer a degree in fermentation sciences in 2012 — a move to support the industry’s rapid expansion in the western part of North Carolina for several years.

According to the Brewers Association, a not-for-profit trade association that promotes craft beer and homebrewing, the total number of U.S. breweries in 2012 was 2,475. In 2017, that number had more than doubled, with 6,372 breweries in operation.

This growth amounts to an increase in jobs in just one of many flourishing career avenues open to students in the degree program, as the number of wineries, distilleries and cideries has also increased in that time frame.

Article written by Alex Jansen, courtesy of Appalachian State University

Photo by Marie Freeman