Alumni Spotlight: Arnab Sarkar

Headshot of Arnab Sarkar.

Arnab Sarkar's father studied civil engineering while working full time as a construction supervisor and it was that dedication and early exposure to the field that inspired Sarkar, Master's of Science in biological and agricultural engineering '01, Ph.D. '04 to one day study engineering and follow in his father’s footsteps. 

Sarkar has gone to hold a wide range of roles throughout a long and distinguished career in the food industry progressing from an entry level process engineer to an industry expert in food safety. His expertise spans various aspects of food and beverage processing including thermal processing, aseptic packaging, and approaches to microbiological controls to maintain food safety through preservation and sanitation.  

A Passion for the Food Industry 

Sarker started at Mars Inc., the American manufacturer of everything from M&Ms to Pedigree pet food, in 2004 after completing his Ph.D. in biological systems engineering at UC Davis. He began as a process engineer, working on development of pet food products and extrusion processes before transitioning to PepsiCo in 2007.  

Today, Sarkar works as the Senior Director of Food Safety at PepsiCo. He leads food safety expert teams that specialize in microbiology, process control and validation, and sanitation. Collaboratively, they ensure microbiological food safety standards for the company's products around the world working with operational and innovation teams. 

In his journey to this role, he has held several positions and has worked on various projects around the world. This has included roles in food process development, applications research, quality assurance, and food safety. His career has allowed him to work and travel to over 25 countries around the world. 

In a world of constrained natural resources and a changing climate, Sarkar and his team take immense pride in the commitment to ensure food safety for products that "provide moments of joy" to the consumer. 

From India to UC Davis  

Sarkar's father, who he credits as his "greatest inspiration" led him to get a degree in agricultural engineering in India. Upon graduating, he decided to pursue his higher education at UC Davis.  

"I was looking forward to attending a top institution in the field of agricultural engineering in an area of the United States that was at the heart of innovation in food production and processing," he said. "UC Davis was a perfect fit and an obvious match."

At UC Davis, his advisor, Distinguished Professor of Food Science and Technology and Engineer Emeritus R. Paul Singh made a major impact on Sarkar. He values Singh both as an inspiration and a mentor. 

"He has a unique ability to simplify and explain the most complex processes to a non-technical audience," Sarkar said.  

Sarkar views what he learned at UC Davis as indispensable and encourages future engineering graduates to learn interdisciplinary skills, which helped distinguish him from his peers.  

"The academic and interpersonal skills I learned at Davis have been instrumental to my career success," he said. 

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