Q&A with Associate Professor Jayashree Arcot, Co-Director of ATGM and Food Science & Technology
Associate Professor Jayashree Arcot is an international acclaimed food technologist whose research focuses on optimising the addition of micronutrients into foods using effective food processing techniques and studying their bioavailability in humans using isotope and cell culture techniques as efficiency of absorption of micronutrients in foods is the ultimate measure of success of a nutrition intervention program.
Jayashree co-founded the Australian Research Council Training Centre for Advanced Technologies in Food Manufacturer (ATFM) in 2013. In this Q&A we chat to Jayashree on what motivates her, her research, and where the role food technology will play in the future.
Q: What was the motivation behind the establishment of ATFM?
A: Jayashree Arcot: I felt there was a great opportunity to establish a collaborative environment with the excellent collective expertise available at UNSW, particularly within the School of Chemical Engineering and the Faculty of Science. The Federal Government had announced a new round of funding to create Industrial Transformation Training Centres and my fellow co-director, Associate Professor Alice Lee and I felt that we could put together a Centre that met the application guidelines (namely: building a research centre that fostered close partnerships between university based researchers and other research end-users). Through the Centre, we would train the next generation of food technologists who would have vital experience working between our UNSW labs, taking advantage of UNSW experts including chemists, polymer scientists, nano technologists, chemical engineers, food scientists and nutritionists and our partner labs or manufacturing sites. It has been a most successful model with our students having the opportunity to work in partner companies including Pepsico, Coorow Seeds, Green’s, Peanut Company of Australia, Simplot and research centres within CSIRO and NSW Department of Primary Industries.
Q: Even before ATFMs establishment, you have a strong reputation in collaborating between research and industry. What have been some of your most memorable research projects with industry?
A: Jayashree Arcot: Some of the memorable industry projects I have been involved in were on “studying the different floral varieties of honey in Australia and estimating their glycemic indices” and working with the honey industry. Meanwhile, working with the chicken meat industry was an eye opener as I am a vegetarian! This study was on the effect of breed and feed on the composition of the chicken meat and also trying to understand if there were differences between conventionally processed chicken meat and free-range chicken.
The food industry is still the largest manufacturing sector in Australia. Graduates with research experience with the right skills will have opportunities to contribute to this industry in a big way.
Associate Professor Jayashree Arcot
Q: A goal of the ATFM is to encourage research higher degree students, especially students to undertake their PhD, what successes have you had over the last three years?
A: Jayashree Arcot: The goal was achieved in a very successful way as our first two PhD students completed their research and submitted their thesis in March 2017. The students have had the opportunity to spend time in the industry and work closely with industry on their project.
Q: What is your message for people considering undertaking their PhD? What are the new opportunities in food manufacturing you see?
A: Jayashree Arcot: The food industry is still the largest manufacturing sector in Australia. Graduates with research experience with the right skills will have opportunities to contribute to this industry in a big way.
Q: In July 2017 you presented at the Humanitarian Food Science and Technology Symposium in Sydney. What was your message to this audience?
A: Jayashree Arcot: My message is to emphasise the fact that research is important and needs to be translated to the field environment to make a difference in humanitarian food aid operations. Nutritionists and Food technologists have to work to together to understand the humanitarian operations in order to transfer knowledge and skills.