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Karen Jones: Food Scientist, Avid Volunteer, Cancer Survivor

Jones holding her granddaughter.

Jones holding her granddaughter.

At UT: At UT since 2012, Karen Jones is a lecturer in the Department of Food Science. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in food science and technology from UT in 1984 and 1986, respectively. After graduation, she devoted her time to raising her family. After more than 25 years as a devoted mother, she decided to return to work. “This job just sort of fell into my lap, but I’m very thankful for it,” she said. She is an academic advisor to more than 50 students and serves as faculty advisor for the Food Science College Bowl. She also serves on the CASNR Scholarship Committee. “I read a lot of scholarship applications,” she said.

Why she chose this field: Jones began her undergraduate career at UT Chattanooga as a pre-pharmacy major. She knew she wanted to do something in the sciences but wasn’t sure what. She found her niche when reading an article about the Institute of Food Technologists, the professional organization for food scientists. “Food science intrigued me,” she said. “Food is something everyone can relate to.” She transferred to UT her junior year to study food science.

Outside interests: Even though she’s returned to work, family is still the center of Jones’s world. She loves to spend time with her three adult children, daughter-in-law, grandchild, and husband. “My children all live in the same neighborhood as my husband and me,” she said. “I love that my family is still together even though they have grown up.”

Beyond spending time with her family, Jones enjoys crafting, reading, browsing antiques malls, and volunteering. “While I was a stay-at-home mom, my family dubbed me a professional volunteer,” she said. “I volunteered with my children’s Science Olympiad teams and the 4-H program. I still volunteer with both organizations today.”

Jones has been a Knox County 4-H volunteer leader for more than 20 years.

“My husband always jokes, ‘If you’re going to work so hard, you might as well get paid for it.’ So here I am,” she said.

 Jones is surrounded by family during a Thanksgiving gathering.

Jones is surrounded by family during a Thanksgiving gathering.

Favorite food: “Pizza,” Jones said. “I could eat it every day! I am not sure why I like it so much, but I enjoy ordering it from restaurants as well as making it at home. I like thin and crispy crust with salami or pepperoni and banana peppers.” Jones likes to cook for her family, and they all get together several times a week to share meals.

If I didn’t do this, I’d: “Stay home with my granddaughter, organize my house, and do crafts.”

One last thing: Jones is a cancer survivor. She said facing cancer made her prioritize her family above all else and taught her to enjoy what little time you have. “Whatever you’re doing, you have to make the best of it,” she said. “Life is too short to be miserable.”

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