Joanne Burke describes the aims of the recent Food Science Summer School at the University of Leeds and the activities undertaken by participants.
The University of Leeds Food Science Summer School is held every year, with space for approximately 30 Year 12 attendees studying appropriate science A Levels, such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics or Maths, and with a commitment to studying a science-related subject at university. The three-day Widening Participation event was sponsored by the CFA (Chilled Food Association) and the IGD (an education and training charity for the food and grocery industry that undertakes research for the benefit of the public) to promote work and study within the field.
The Food Science two-night, residential Summer School took place on 27th – 29th June and began with an introductory talk led by the School’s Director of Research & Innovation, Dr Caroline Orfila, who informed the young scientists how exciting Food Science can be and explained that they would be exploring the ever changing, multidisciplinary science subject that addresses many societal challenges affecting everyone on a daily basis.
My favourite activity was definitely visiting Taylor’s of Harrogate.’
The programme was specifically designed to encourage an interest in Food Science & Nutrition and it incorporated taster labs, where attendees were able to investigate product design, use analytical techniques to understand the properties of food, attend industry visits and receive an introduction to higher education and university life in general.
The first task the attendees were given was to investigate the benefits of smoothies and the challenges faced in new product development. They were given a brief to develop a smoothie that both tasted and looked good but that could also reduce blood pressure. They took on the task and created some innovative products to showcase. The winning team used beetroot as the main ingredient to reduce blood pressure and used berries to create a palatable taste.
The creative lab sessions continued with attendees exploring the difficulty of making a ‘melt in the middle’ pudding and blind taste testing against other leading brands so they could understand difficulties that occur in the processing stage. Attendees participated in several other projects in the lab to explore the crucial health demands of food, including understating the structure complexity of ice cream, manipulating properties of protein, difficulties of managing iron in food and the effects of pH on food colours. They also considered the effects these elements can have on health.
To add to the research and laboratory sessions, attendees were taken on an industry visit so they could understand how the issues addressed in the Summer School play out in the ‘real world.’ They visited Taylors of Harrogate, a Yorkshire family business devoted to the craft of outstanding tea and coffee. Not only did they have a chance to see what a food manufacturing site looks like, they were also able to discuss career options with current staff members. It was important for attendees to understand the high level of employability for the course and the various routes they are able to follow, especially considering food is the single largest manufacturing sector in the UK. It is crucial for the School to continue to recruit and train food scientists for the future.
Many of the attendees subsequently apply for the Food Science course, hence the final part of the event was an admissions talk allowing them to ask questions. The experience of staying on campus, exploring Leeds and getting to know current students was of great benefit to attendees; they received a whistle stop tour of what studying Food Science at The University of Leeds would look and feel like.
I really enjoyed all the activities especially the ‘smoothie challenge’.
Feedback from attendees
‘I gained a lot of information about food science and it has given me an idea as to what kind of careers I can go into with my degree. One of the most interesting things was speaking to current and past students about their experiences at Leeds University, which was extremely useful. My favourite activity was definitely visiting Taylor’s of Harrogate, as it showed me how many possible careers there actually are within the food industry.’
‘I’m very satisfied about this whole summer school programme. The staff who came to help out were all amazing and deserve our gratitude for taking good care of us. It’s been a pleasure to partake in these numerous activities, especially the mini lab, which stands out the most. The events turned out very well and have given me only positive experiences. I like this college a lot and hopefully I’ll make it in next year!’
‘I met some really nice people, both the students on the course and the staff. I really enjoyed all the activities especially the ‘smoothie challenge’. The fact that we were grouped differently for each activity made it much easier to get to know a wide variety of people on the course and find friends. I also really enjoyed the trip to the tea factory as it gave the summer course some diversity, I also found it really interesting as my family has a background within the tea industry.’
Dr Joanne Burke, Laboratory Manager, Teaching Laboratories, School of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT.