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Staff Profile: Sharyn Passeretti, Lab Specialist

Sharyn Passeretti Lab Specialist | Food Science and Human Nutrition UF/IFASSay hello to Sharyn Passeretti, lab specialist and food science extraordinaire! Sharyn is the Lab Manager for the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department and is involved in every aspect of running the departmental food labs. Read on to learn about how she supports the department on a daily basis, her extensive background in food science and the culinary arts, her tips for transitioning to online learning with unique laboratory videos, and one of the most unusual foods she’s ever eaten!

Tell me about your role in the FSHN department. What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I wear a lot of hats. My job is the daily operations of the teaching & experimental food labs for FSHN department. My schedule changes greatly from day to day. Once my day starts, I am all over the building. I can be doing anything from purchase/receiving for chemicals and supplies to picking up food at grocery stores for the course experiments.  I can also be found in the labs with the TAs when they are setting up for the instructors’ labs, and I teach the Experimental Foods Lab.

How did you get into your field of expertise?
Sharyn Passeretti Lab Specialist | Food Science and Human Nutrition UF/IFAS

Sharyn at her graduation from the Culinary Institute of America.

I’ve always been involved with food. I started cooking when I was about five years old (jello, making salad) and made my first hollandaise sauce when I was about eleven years old. My career began in 1983 with my first job managing four salad bars at the Radisson Muehlebach hotel in Kansas City, Missouri. I worked in various restaurants then switched to private clubs as a commis chef at the Mission Hills Country Club in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. I left there to obtain my degree from The Culinary Institute of America in 1989. In 1994, I went back to school, completing my BS in Food Science at the University of Florida. I then moved into the food science industry. While working at ABC Research Laboratories, I completed my post baccalaureate in human nutrition at UF in 2006-2007.

What did you do before joining the FSHN department?

For fifteen years, I worked in the food service industry in facilities ranging from private country clubs to concept restaurants. After graduating from UF in 2002, I worked at ABC Research Laboratories in the Chemistry and Labeling Division. I started out there as a lab technician, then I worked my way up to Wet Chemistry & Food Labeling Manager. Then I switched over to regulatory compliance when Merieux NutriSciences bought the company.

You recently became the advisor for CASU—the Culinary Arts Student Union. How did you become the advisor, and what are your plans for the group?
Sharyn Passeretti Lab Specialist | Food Science and Human Nutrition UF/IFAS

Showing students 100% utilization by making ricotta out of leftover milk, cream, and half-and-half.

The former advisor asked if I wanted to step into the position. My plans will be to support the club’s plans and provide some creative insight and knowledge as needed. We could do fermentation projects, canning, candy making, or international holiday specialties. The ideas are limitless.

How has the transition to online learning been going for you?

I found my transition great fun. Yet there was a learning curve, mostly due to the uploading of the videos.  “Oh…there isn’t enough room on Canvas for my video files.”  To remedy this, I reached out through Help Desk to Mediasite to generate a page I could link to. Then I made sure I had the setting correct on Mediasite for the students to watch the videos on Canvas.  Otherwise, I did not find the transition that difficult.  It took about a week for me to film all the experiments for the three labs, then it took a day for Rod and me to edit and export the videos.

One of the assignments was to participate in a taste panel and write about the experience. Due to COVID-19, some of my students could not attend a panel.  So, I generated a COVID-19 sensory panel assignment where they could make their own taste panel at home and write about that experiment.

Would you share your top tips for making the most of the online learning experience, for staff, faculty, and students?
  1. For generating the videos: Have the experiment station and the food ready to go.  Have the camera on the tripod angled, focused, and ready to observe the experiment.
  2. Know your experiment before starting to video and refer to sections or pages so the students can follow along if needed. If there was a cook/processing/fermentation time: When I would stop the video, I would use that time to get the timed experiment results ready for recording. If there was a long period of time to wait, I would record another experiment. Based on the experiment wait times, I made a recording schedule.

    Sharyn Passeretti Lab Specialist | Food Science and Human Nutrition UF/IFAS

    Screenshot from one of Sharyn’s lab videos illustrating enzymes in action.

  3. I made sure the videos were easy to follow but not too long.
  4. Taking pictures of the timed material along with the videos was very helpful. I placed those in a PowerPoint photo album.
  5. For the assignment page or module:
    • I made sure the lab handouts contained the written material on the subject, the lab procedure, and the lab report questions all on one document. Then I uploaded the handouts along with the Excel file containing the experiment data/results.
    • The videos and PowerPoint albums were added on or linked to the page.
Is there anything you’d like to share about the recent changes going on?

As a Gator Nation, we banded together and triumphed in our quest to keep the channels of education open, from the administration, faculty, and staff transitioning their curriculum to the students that stepped up and completed their reports and exams. As Gators, we reached beyond the swamp to offer safety supplies and equipment to those standing on the front lines such as, but not limited to, our first responders, those in the medical field, and retail industry workers during this unprecedented time. It would be hard to find one person that has not been affected by the illness and death, sadness and loss that has occurred during this moment in history. But we will get through this together. Acting as GaterOne, we have become GaterWon.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Knitting project

Crochet project

Right now, it’s getting the house unpacked (I moved January 1st). And now that I’m back in Gainesville, I want to resume my swimming and free weights at the gym. My food hobbies are brewing fruit wines, baking, and cooking. Craft hobbies are knitting and crochet.

What is the most unusual food you’ve ever eaten, and how did you encounter it?

I remember having to get ginkgo nuts for a Chinese recipe. That made my first trip, now of many, into an Asian market. The most unusual item that came in for testing was a canned sandwich – literally in a can…

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

One of Sharyn’s coworkers.

I’m also a fur mom to 6–yes 6–cats. All are rescues, from oldest to youngest: MeU, Fantasma, Bacetti, Figaro, Zezolla, and Earnest Hemmingway.  Working from home, I called them my CA’s.

Interested in learning more about the field of food science? Read more here and here!

P.S. Want to read more about the amazing work going on in the FSHN department? See our previous student and faculty profiles below:

Undergraduate Students:
Shannon Mai, Dietetics
Alex Colon, Dietetics and Jenny Duong, Food Science
Jackie Shannon, Nutritional Sciences

Graduate Students:
Savanna Curtis, Food Science
Carley Rusch and Matthew Beke, Nutritional Sciences
Alexa Hosey, Dietetics (MS/DI)

Faculty:
Dr. Naim Montazeri, Food Science/Food Virology
Dr. Jeanette Andrade, Dietetics
Dr. Zhiyong Cheng, Nutritional Sciences