Seminar shows physics can be a ‘piece of cake’

By Nicole Landfield

Using her wit and a dose of science, a Cal Poly professor showed
students last Thursday how she can have her cake and eat it

Winny Dong of the Chemical and Materials Engineering Department
presented a seminar titled “A Materials Science Perspective on the
Texture of Cakes ” or How to Get Students to Bring You Cake.”

Interested students and professors filled the classroom to be
entertained by a series of experiments that combined baking and

Most of the audience consisted of members from various science
departments, who were truly interested in the research

“A few students will get extra credit in the seminars, but most
students are just interested in it,” said Alex Small, chair of the
Seminar Committee for the Physics Department. “We have had a really
good turnout since last year for the seminars.”

The large audience brought in by the seminar also surprised
members of the Chemical and Materials Engineering Department.

“We weren’t expecting as many people,” said Isabel Pan, a
third-year chemical engineering student. “We almost didn’t bring
enough cake samples.”

Each audience member was offered the opportunity to take part in
the experimentation process and received three cake samples. One
sample was made from quinoa flour, the second from sweet rice flour
and a third sample blended from both flours.

After receiving the samples, audience members were asked to
participate in the research by filling out a survey about each cake
sample and to rate the samples for various elements of smell,
firmness and, of course, overall taste.

The samples were rated on a scale of zero to four, with the
latter being the most appetizing.

“Most food scientists are concerned with the taste of the test
subjects,” said Dong. “We want to know if the cake is better if it
is creamy, smooth, tender, dry, fluffy, gummy, tough or chewy. We
are looking into what makes cake so good.”

The presentation mainly focused on the difference between
gluten-free and wheat flours, in relation to their desirability and
structure in cakes.

Representatives from the Chemical and Materials Engineering
Department welcomed questions and illustrated how their research
can affect food science.

“I like doing this because it gives you a different
perspective,” said Ivonne Orozco, a fourth-year chemical
engineering student. “What you eat can be related to what you

The audience participated throughout the entire seminar, asking
and answering questions posed through the presentation.

“I have been coming to physics lectures the past couple weeks,”
said Stephen Schoniger, a first-year chemical engineering student.
“Usually I come because these seminars talk about something
interesting, and I am thinking about getting a minor in materials

Small said one of the draws for people was seeing how physics
can be related to parts of their everyday lives.

“We have been doing this for years,” said Small. “We have a
really good schedule next quarter. We show the coolest things in
physics and things that you would never think were physics but are.
I mean, who would have thought that cake was physics?”

Future seminars will cover topics such as radiology, biology
microscopes, simulations of materials and educational work.

For more information and a full listing of future physics
seminars, visit

Reach Nicole Landfield at:

Seminar shows physics can be a

Daniel Nguyen/Poly Post

Seminar shows physics can be a ‘piece of cake’

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