Joana Encarnacao studied for  a PhD in food science and nutrition at the University of Leeds

Joana Encarnacao

Where are you from and what are you studying?    

I was born in Switzerland, where I did all my studies. I then worked for two years in Australia in biochemistry.

Then, I came to Leeds to start my PhD in food biochemistry, in the team of Professor Gary Williamson, where I am studying the absorption of phenolic acids and how it is linked to human health.    

Can you briefly describe the area you are researching?  

I am currently researching the effect of particular coffee antioxidants in human inflammation and cardiovascular health, an increasing concern in today's society. This is part of an epidemiological human study.    

Why did you choose the University of Leeds?    

I hadn’t visited the University of Leeds before starting my PhD, but I knew that the School of Food Science and Nutrition was very well rated, which for me is also a sign of research recognition and satisfaction.

This is the reason why I chose to come to Leeds. You can always be wrong, but so far I am happy, and I think I made the right choice.

What made you choose a research degree?    

I wanted to be able to increase my qualifications, and working on a research project as a PhD student gives me the opportunity to make decisions, have more responsibilities, while improving my knowledge.

Doing a research degree is not only a degree, it is a real job that makes you think about the problems that you encounter during your research, find solutions (if possible) and gives you some freedom to try new things, within reasonable limits.    

What is it that makes you passionate about the subject you study?

I love food, and understanding how it can influence health makes me want to research different constituents. To ask myself questions about what mechanisms could influence which parameters, interact with human volunteers (particularly in my project), and see the end results that could benefit others is what motivates me the most.

How would you describe student life for students at Leeds?    

The University Union offers a lot of possibilities to join groups (e.g, different sports or groups) or trip experiences. These are good ways to meet people from other departments.

Leeds has a high number of students and a lot of things are organised to facilitate student life and make experiences more accessible financially.

What will be your favourite memories of studying at Leeds?    

I will certainly leave with very good memories from being a demonstrator in practical classes, the events organised within the department (e.g. Open Days, taste panels organised by undergraduates) and meeting different international students.

What do you think of the academic facilities and support services?    

I think the teaching laboratories are well equipped and most of the teaching body make themselves very available to students.

Students can contact teachers by email or go to their office. In regards to administrative support, it is quite well organised within the department and I am happy to have a very helpful and friendly support office.     

What do you like best about the School of Food Scinece and Nutrition?    

Mainly its relatively small size, which helps you get to know people better from different groups and have a closer contact with all members of the School.

What would you say to other students thinking of coming to the University of Leeds?

There will always be negative sides to any of the universities they will attend, but I am pretty sure that if they come to Leeds, they will certainly enjoy their stay.

The contact between students and other members of the School is very relaxed and the practical experiences within the School are very much enjoyed by students.

Also, I would recommend to get in touch with appropriate members of the staff to have a clearer idea of all the possibilities during and after the studies.