It was an honour to be invited back to represent the SCI on the judges panel for the Final of the IFST Young Food Scientist of the Year Final (North of England). This year it was hosted in Middlesbrough by Teesside University.
Undergraduates and Postgraduates were competing to win their category by presenting findings from their dissertation projects. We were welcomed to the very stylish modern campus and an aptly named building, the Curve, by Nigel Atkinson Senior Lecturer at Teesside University in Forensic/Applied Science (Food Chemistry). I was joined by my fellow judges, panel leader Ivan Bartolo of the Sea Fish Industry Authority, Ian Blakemore of Protem Projects and our timekeeper Martin Nulty. This year we were very pleased to welcome onto the panel Claire Abbott, Head of R&D Programme Management at Quorn Foods.
We certainly had our work cut out for us as we were treated to a very high standard of talks from a group of students that were confident and self-assured, on the surface anyway. They certainly kept any nerves well under control. The competition was kicked off by undergraduate Melissa Turner from Sheffield Hallam University who had been studying stress in students, and how the levels of salt consumption may affect systolic blood pressure. Five other undergraduates from Sheffield Hallam, Newcastle and Teesside Universities followed covering a range of topics from the behaviour of green tea polyphenols in the mouth, the effect of a super-fruit on blood sugar and insulin levels, analytical chemistry of fatty acids in edible oils, the impact of branding on consumer choice, and a report on strategies for reducing campylobacter in the food supply chain. Judges were looking at several elements in the presentations; the rational, was the reason for the study explained well; the method adopted, results and their interpretation. Additionally how applicable was the study to the food industry, would the findings add value? Finally the presentation skills and ability to keep to time were considered. The winner from this section was Beth Twilley, from Sheffield Hallam University, with "The role of information and expectation on sensory evaluation: a study investigating the effect of branding". And here are all the winners and runners-up.
Photo courtesy of Teesside University
There were four postgraduate finalists two from Liverpool John Moores, one from Leeds and one industry based at 2 Sisters Food Group. With a little more time they had an opportunity to go into more detail. Of course that meant we had the opportunity to ask more questions! Excellent talks were given on: take away food and impacts on CVD, a novel use of ultrasonics as an analytical tool for studying enzyme kinetics, processing strategies for reducing the incidence of small bones in chicken breast fillet, and a very interesting final talk from Tanja Harrison from Liverpool John Moores University on obesity phenotypes, nutritional status and cardiometabolic risk. In this postgraduate category the winner was Ruth Wright, from 2 Sisters Food Group, with her talk "A study into the reduction of bones in boneless chicken breast fillet". This was a big topic to cover and although only in her first year Ruth presented the project concisely and clearly.
Of course our most discerning judges are often our peers and the audience of fellow students took their opportunity to nominate their own favourite of the evening…and this award went to postgraduate Luisa Patzschewitz, from University of Leeds, with "The ultrasonic resonator technique - a potential analytical tool to measure enzyme kinetics".
All in all an excellent evening and all the participants should be very happy with their performance. Hopefully the Judges didn't do such a bad job either…until next year then.
Craig is a consultant, a flavour enthusiast and an unapologetic analytical chemistry geek.