Jonathan Schmitt Expands Nutritional Science Knowledge at PURIS

An internship with a plant-based food company allows UConn students to sharpen skills in nutrition and business

Man in food lab

Jon Schmitt works in PURIS lab (Contributed photo)

Jonathan Schmitt ‘25 (CAHNR), a nutritional science major minoring in professional sales leadership, wanted an internship that allowed him to explore his dual interests in nutrition and business. PURIS did just that.

Schmitt has spent his summer interning at PURIS, getting hands-on experience with every aspect of food product development from design to sales.

PURIS is a leading producer of plant-based ingredients that specializes in non-GMO, organic, and sustainable options. Notably, PURIS operates the largest pea protein facility in North America, located in Dawson, Minnesota. PURIS CEO Tyler Lorenzen ’08 (BUS), is also a UConn alum.

“I like that it was multifaceted, where it had the science portion that I wanted with nutrition, but it was also marketing, and business and more of that side of things too,” Schmitt says. “So, I was really excited to apply and excited when I got it.”

This summer, Schmitt has been developing  multitude of plant-based products for PURIS. Schmitt was responsible for consulting peer-reviewed research on plant-based compounds, like functional additives and certain amino acids, to determine different inclusions that can be used for his projects. Schmitt is also designing the product’s packaging and marketing it.

Schmitt says that during this process, his supervisor was receptive to his ideas, a value he’s found throughout PURIS.

“It’s unique when you get an internship experience where you’re so respected and there’s so much trust placed in you this early on,” Schmitt says.

Schmitt has also been testing PURIS’ plant-based protein powders under various conditions to determine, for example, how much water can be added to the powder and still end up with an emulsified drink.

“That’s not something I’m used to, and I think it’s something I’ll be able to carry with me forever now that I have this dual understanding of things – food science and nutrition,” Schmitt says.

Schmitt has been working alongside another CAHNR (College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources) intern, Naniel Scott, all summer at PURIS. As the resident nutritional science experts at PURIS, Schmitt says their input has been valued by the employees, who mostly have food science backgrounds.

“We’re kind of like the experts in that field and they treat us like that too,” Schmitt says. “It’s really, really cool to have that respect.”

PURIS has hosted interns for the past five years and this is the first time they are from UConn. Each summer, the company provides interns with hands-on and diverse experience within the company. This allows the interns to gain valuable experience, and PURIS benefits from the innovative ideas the interns bring.

“It really helps for us to keep that talent pool full because that’s how we’re going to drive innovation,” says Kushal Chandak, vice president of research and development at PURIS.

Schmitt says after graduation he hopes to work in a role similar to what he did at PURIS, with even greater emphasis on sales which would allow him to explain the nutritional science behind products to people.

“Now that I’ve worked with this company, it shows how much I can do, the capacity I have as a professional,” Schmitt says. “I think the opportunity I’ve had here and the connection’s I’ve made here, it seems like a huge steppingstone to get into a serious professional career.”


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