Understanding the impact of protein-saliva interaction on texture perception


Contact Professor Alan Mackie or Dr Anwesha Sarkar to discuss this project further informally.

Project description

What is the science behind healthier, protein containing snacks? How do food components interact with saliva to determine sensory experience?

Understanding the impact of protein-saliva interaction on texture perception

This is an exciting opportunity for a highly motivated and creative student with a background in biosciences, biochemistry, food science or related areas. You will be joining a dynamic and multidisciplinary team investigating the impact and mechanism of interaction between proteins and saliva on oral mucosa and texture perception.

The food industry is facing the strongest ever pressure to satisfy the consumer demand for healthier and more nutritious foods (e.g. low sugar/fat, high protein/fibre), and the most common way to achieve this is through reformulation of current recipes. However, without understanding the impact of interactions between food components (proteins in this case) and saliva, the reformulation can result in reduced consumer liking, particularly in texture perception. The student will use a series of physicochemical methods to understand the interactions between proteins and saliva and how these interactions may impact texture perception in both model and real food systems.

This project is part of the BBSRC-funded Mondelez International (a major food manufacturer) CTP, in partnership with the Norwich Research Park DTP and the KTN. The student would be based at the University of Leeds and spend at least three months at Mondelez International understanding how academic research is translated into a commercial environment. The research will therefore be directly translated into the design of novel, healthy foods. As part of a dispersed cohort of students within the Mondelez CTP, the student would also have the opportunity to share experiences with students at other academic hosts.

The student would receive training in protein characterisation using dynamic light scattering, electrophoresis, fluorescence spectroscopy, confocal microscopy, tribology (lubrication) and many other practical skills. The successful applicant will benefit from the combined expertise of research groups at University of Leeds and Mondelez International, as well as a range of other training opportunities, making this project the perfect springboard for a future scientific career. Experience in sensory trials would be advantageous but not essential.

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a 1st class honours degree in biosciences, biochemistry, food science or related discipline, skills in physical and chemical sciences, ideally applied to proteins, and demonstrate an interest in applying their research to the area of healthy snacks.

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university's website. Please state clearly in the research information second that the PhD you wish to be considered for is 'Understanding the impact of protein-saliva interaction on texture perception' as well as Professor Alan Mackie as your proposed supervisor.

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University's minimum English Language requirements.

We welcome scholarship applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.