Postgraduate Opportunities in Food Structure & Health

Postgraduate Opportunities in Food Structure & Health

Opportunities exist for motivated graduates to develop their research skills further in a variety of innovative food research projects based at the Moorepark Food Research Centre, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland. The laboratories are well equipped and the prospective students will have access to state-of-the-art research equipment and experienced supervisors.There are currently four studentships available in the area of food structure and health and cheese science as described below:

Position 1.Characterisation of polysaccharides as fat mimetics in mixed biopolymer systems using dynamic microstructure analysis.

Polysaccharides are widely used in the food industry as thickening agents and for their fat mimetic properties, whilst milk proteins are particularly useful as structuring agents in many foods. By exploiting segregative phase separation phenomena it is possible to control the microstructure and phase distribution of mixed biopolymer systems containing both proteins and polysaccharides and therefore to design food structures with desired functional properties.Most phase separation studies have focused on equilibrium behaviour and used small deformation rheological methods to study properties; very few studies have linked large deformation and failure response to microstructural features.

Confocal scanning laser microscopy (CSLM) is a powerful technique for studying the distribution of food ingredients and also the formation of protein networks. Recent developments in micro-tensile and shearing optical stages have facilitated the direct observation of protein-polysaccharide composites during mechanical deformation. This successful candidate will develop and apply dynamic microstructure characterisation techniques to mixed biopolymer systems containing milk proteins and polysaccharides. Rheological and microstructural data obtained will be correlated with data obtained from equivalent biopolymer systems containing fat.

Academic Supervisor:Prof. Daniel M. Mulvihill, University College, Cork.
Teagasc Supervisor: Dr. Mark Auty, Moorepark Food Research Centre.

Position 2. Characterisation of creaminess perception in multiphase food emulsions by dynamic microstructural and rheological analyses.

Creaminess is a desirable attribute associated with foods of high quality, but which often contain moderate to high fat contents. Fat-reduction, although desirable for health reasons, remains a technological challenge, given the consumer preference for full-fat counterparts. Knowing the effect of mastication on the structural breakdown and release of fat will give insight into the development of more effective fat-replacers.

The objective of this project is to study the mobility and perception of fat and fat mimetics during oral processing. Two product types will be prepared: a) yoghurt model and b) filled gel, both containing pre-defined sizes of dispersed phase of either fat droplets or fat mimetics. Products will be validated by descriptive sensory analysis prior to furtheranalysis. Deformation, rupture, coalescence and mobility of the dispersed phase during deformation will be monitored by dynamic confocal microstructural analysis using shear and tensile stages. Viscoelastic properties of emulsions and gels will be characterized by dynamic rheometry and large deformation texture analysis, respectively. Results will be related to objective descriptive sensory analysis using creaminess as the principle meta-descriptor, but considering related textural and mouth-feel characteristics.

The outcome of this research will increase understanding of the relationship between product structure and creaminess perception and help develop innovative reduced fat foods. Results will be used to develop a predictive model for creaminess based on composition, microstructural features and bulk rheology.

Academic Supervisor:Dr. Alan Kelly, University College, Cork.
Teagasc Supervisor:Dr. Mark Auty, Moorepark Food Research Centre.

Position 3. Development of a range of innovative speciality cheeses and determination of effect of varying technological and biochemical parameters on ripening and sensory quality.

Cheese consumption is growing with an increased demand for speciality cheeses. The British cheese market alone is ~ 600,000 tonnes p.a. and is valued at € 3.6 bn, of which retail sales account for over 335,000 tonnes valued at ~ € 2.2 bn.Market analysis has already been undertaken to identify speciality cheeses of interest, both to the Irish and British cheese markets.The objectives and expected deliverables of the project include:

To undertake technological development of speciality cheeses and variants or hybrids thereof.
To characterise the cheeses developed and to identify key quality attributes.
To elucidate and optimise the effects of varying compositional and ripening parameters on cheese ripening and on sensory qualities

Methodologies used will include: pilot scale technological development, analysis of compositional and ripening indices using methodologies including: HPLC, GC, GCMS, spectrophotometry, electrophoresis and texture profile analysis and statistically based experimental designs.

Academic Supervisor:Prof. P.L.H. McSweeney, University College, Cork.
Teagasc Supervisor:Diarmuid Sheehan, Moorepark Food Research Centre.

Position 4. Technological approaches to controlling glycemia for development of anti-obesity/diabetic foods

The project will utilise a broad spectrum of knowledge (scientific, technological and medical) to study the influence of functionally different dairy proteins/carbohydrate formulations on the parameters affecting glucose release from model food systems.

The work is focused on food formulation using dairy proteins, selected carbohydrates and new methodologies through food engineering to control energy balance and satiation by influencing glycaemia. The project will begin with an investigation of the rheological behaviour of selected protein-hydrocolloid interactions. This will be followed up with an attempt at understanding how such mixed polymer systems breakdown in the course of simulated digestion.The outputs of these laboratory studies will be linked to follow-up in vitro and in vivo studies to provide an opportunity to establish glucose absorption patterns.

The deliverables from this project should include an understanding of the structural and phase separating behaviour of selected protein-carbohydrate systems and subsequent effect on hydrolysis of carbohydrates. The rationale here is to provide basic research for development of possible formulations with ‘slow carb’ functionally and target the area of anti-diabetic/obesity foods with a view to controlling ‘glycemic potential’ and associated structure/hormonal response.

Academic Supervisor:Dr Alan L. Kelly, University College, Cork.
Teagasc Supervisor: Dr. Mark Fenelon, Moorepark Food Research Centre.

Requirements: Applicants should have a good primary degree (1 or 2.1) in Food Science, Biochemistry, Biological or Physical Science.

Funding: The positions are funded by a Teagasc Walsh Fellowship of €17,000 p.a. covering postgraduate stipend and tuition fees.

Location: Sucessful applicants for all positions will be based at Moorepark Food research Centre, Fermoy, Co. Cork. Some time will also be spent at the relevant academic institution.

Starting date: The project will start at the beginning of September 2006. Students will be required to register for a higher degree at the appropriate academic institution.

Application procedure: Applicants should submit their curriculum vitae, detailing qualifications and experience, together with a covering letter stating which position they are applying for and explaining why they wish to pursue this project. Deadline for applications is Friday 18 August 2006. Applications for all positions should be sent, preferably by email, to the respective academic supervisor as detailed below:

Position 1. Prof. Daniel M. Mulvihill, Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, National University of Ireland, Cork, Ireland.

Position 2. Dr. Alan Kelly, Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, National University of Ireland, Cork, Ireland.

Position 3. Prof. P.L.H. McSweeney, Dept. of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University College, Cork. University College, Cork.

Position 4. Dr Alan L. Kelly, Dept. of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University College, Cork. University College, Cork.

Further details on positions 1 and 2 are available from Dr. Mark Auty (, Tel: +353 25 42447), on position 3, Mr Diarmuid Sheehan (, Tel: +353 25 42232) and on position 4, Dr Mark Fenelon (, Tel: +353 25 42355).

Closing date for all posts:Friday, 25 August 2006


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