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Building Food Process Models for Understanding and Optimization

In-person: Sunday, Sept. 18, 1:00-4:30 PM (Location to be announced)

Online (required) pre-class learning: Available Sept. 8

Why this workshop?

While model-based understanding of food physics and its applications to computer-aided manufacturing is expanding rapidly, educational programs to prepare a future workforce well-versed in modeling have roadblocks. The workshop should provide a quantum leap in resources for everyone interested in modeling, from the beginning students all the way to experienced educators, and for industry personnel, by providing comprehensive physical frameworks, instructional resources and approaches, and a walkthrough of the modeling process. We will showcase pedagogically rich, modularized, active learning-enabled, multistage content that can effectively accommodate a wide range of learner backgrounds and interests that are being developed with USDA NIFA funding.

Starting from the big picture of frameworks, the simplest to the most complex, we will focus on the framework that treats food as porous media with multiphase/multicomponent transport due to diffusion, capillary pressure, swelling pressure, and gas pressure, with shrinkage/expansion driven by moisture change and internal pressure. Mechanistic frameworks for food quality and food safety will complement the porous media framework. Case studies will include complex multiphysics applications such as meat cooking with shrinkage, case hardening during drying, puffing with a massive expansion, and microwave drying with shrinkage.

In our hybrid learning approach, the background material (theory) will be online. The in-person component (during CoFE) will involve building the computational model of a process chosen by the learner, based on the online prior work and in-person step-by-step model development facilitated by the three instructors present. The in-person activity will also involve follow-up discussions on the online content, in a flipped-learning mode.

Learning outcomes

  1. Compare and contrast between simpler and more comprehensive physics frameworks for understanding food processes
  2. Apply food physics frameworks to complex food processes for their understanding and optimization
  3. Formulate a computational model of a chosen food process with the eventual goal of speeding up the design cycle

Target audience

  1. Beginner and advanced learner (industry and academia) in modeling of food processes
  2. Any food engineering teaching faculty wishing to supplement with food physics modules and modeling
  3. Anyone interested in modeling transport processes in biomaterials


Undergraduate courses in heat and mass transfer, basic engineering mechanics; no prior experience in modeling necessary

Workshop format

There are two parts to the workshop, critically complementing each other so the learner needs to attend both:

  1. Online: Learners preregistered will have to go through the online version that provides all the generic content. The website address for this will be provided to the registered persons. This online part will have its own quizzes, etc. At least one of the instructors would be reachable. You are encouraged to bring in questions from the online part to when we meet in-person.
  2. In-person: Hands-on (without software) application to processes of individual learner’s interest. This will be primarily problem formulation, turning a real-world problem into its mathematical model, which is generally the hardest part. This is not a COMSOL learning or numerical methods workshop and we will not spend any significant time on COMSOL or any software implementation, although related questions, if any, will be answered. At least three persons will moderate the workshop, paying individual attentional to learners. The workshop will follow several active learning strategies like worksheets, think-pair-share, and concept mapping. We will all benefit from the combined wisdom of the participants.

Instructor background

Primary instructor: Ashim Datta, Professor, Cornell University, USA

Additional instructors/facilitators: Francesco Marra, Professor, University of Salerno, Italy; Fabrizio Sarghini, Professor, University of Naples, Italy; Debmalya Ghosh, Graduate Student, Cornell Univ.


$ 100 per person


Email Professor Ashim Datta at

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