College of Food student presents sugar research at IFST Young Scientist competition

June 2019

A University College Birmingham student had the chance to present her own research to professionals from the food industry as part of a national competition.

Third year BSc Food Development and Innovation student Zoe Ager was chosen to speak at the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) Young Scientist Competition after submitting an abstract from her UCB undergraduate dissertation.

Zoe was one of just six undergraduates from around the country selected for the North of England regional final at Manchester Metropolitan University on 5 June – and the first UCB student ever chosen to appear at the finals of the competition.

Zoe, who is a student representative for IFST, chose to focus on the thermal behaviour of sugar for her dissertation research, analysing cakes for her investigation.

"I was taking a theory about being able to heat up sugar at low temperatures while still retaining its function and structure," explained Zoe.

"This was only a theory about how sucrose behaves, but I'm trying to apply this to manufacturing so I used cake because I thought it shows the function best.

"I was looking at if this theory is true and if it can be applied to industry, as it's important for people to fully understand the thermal behaviour of sucrose when reacting to bakery ingredients."

In researching her dissertation, Zoe was able to make use of the state-of-the-art facilities at UCB's multi-million pound Food Science and Innovation Suite, including equipment for sensory testing and texture analysis.

"I wouldn't have been able to do it without this equipment," said Zoe. "These are not facilities you can easily come across, especially not as good as the ones at UCB, so I've enjoyed having the ability to use those."

The IFST Young Scientist Competition is an annual contest which sees undergraduate and postgraduate students from around the UK present their current or recently completed food-related project in front of their peers to a panel of food professionals.

And while Zoe was not chosen to progress to the national final of the competition, there were many positives to be gained from her experience at the contest.

"I'm proud," said Zoe. "I really enjoy taking part in the competitions.

"It's as much about learning from other people as it is about yourself. I always enjoy events because they widen your knowledge and give you up-to-date information as well – this is all very new research that everyone is doing."

UCB College of Food lecturer Alina-Ioana Gostin, who served as Zoe's dissertation supervisor, said: "Zoe's research provided insights into the functional role of caramelised sugar for cake production, as well as into consumer perception of such products.

"Zoe has shown a pro-active approach to her research, which she has planned diligently, and used with confidence a range of food science laboratory equipment for her analyses."

Find out more about UCB's state-of-the-art Food Science and Innovation Suite and other facilities here.

Check out our full range of courses at the College of Food here.

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