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Macrostructural design rules and requirements for plant protein-based food products

   Riddet Institute

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  Prof A Ye  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The performance and properties of food products, such as technical functionality, sensory behaviour and digestibility are inherently governed by the material structure. This applies equally to naturally assembled food structures, through to structures created by processing and formulation design as part of manufactured foods.

Understanding of this relationship allows the properties of foods to effectively be tailored towards specific consumer-preferred outcomes. At the Riddet Institute, this approach is being utilised towards the more effective utilization of plant-based raw materials in food product design.

In this PhD, we will explore the objective that novel processing and extended formulation of plant protein extracts can be iteratively assembled towards casein gel analogue structures (i.e., cheese, yoghurt). To validate this objective, different plant protein gels resulting from the processing (extrusion, shear cell processing and ultra-high temperature/pressure processing) of plant proteins will be assessed for their texture, rheological properties and microstructure. Multiple variables will be investigated to derive optimal conditions for plant protein gel development, which will be examined against benchmarks to ensure an acceptable structure and textures. Bond interactions within plant protein gel during and post-processing will be investigated to understand the mechanism and roles of these interactions in the formation of plant protein gels. Characterisation of model foods using rheological properties and microstructural properties will be determined and related to the dynamic of protein interactions during structure assembling determined by gel electrophoresis, HPLC and CD.

The 3.5 year scholarship includes an annual tax-free stipend of NZD$30,000 and tuition fees. The project is funded by the Riddet Institute.

The research will be based in the Riddet Institute (, located on the Massey Campus in Palmerston North. The Riddet Institute is a New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence hosted by Massey University at Massey University, which is where the student will be enrolled. 

The ideal candidate must have:

  • A First-Class Honours or Second-Class Honours (Division I), MSc degree (or equivalent) or BSc degree with Honours (or equivalent).
  • Motivation and self-determination to complete a PhD within 3.5 years.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.
  • Ability to learn, work independently and collaboratively, adapt to change, and plan, organise and implement projects in a timely manner; and
  • Demonstrated high ethical standards, diligence, integrity, professionalism, politeness and courteousness, and be able to effectively work in a diverse team. 

The application must include:

  • Cover letter (1-2 pages), explaining your interest and why you think you are suited to the position.
  • CV (summarising education, employment, scientific outputs, names of 3 references)
  • Copies of educational certificates and transcript of records.

Your application (relevant documents mentioned above) must be submitted to Prof Aiqian Ye ([Email Address Removed]). 

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