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The Icing on the Doughnut: Exploring the flow properties of complex biomolecules


   Department of Materials Science and Engineering


About the Project

What if you wanted to really move the needle on health? For a start you’d have to recognise that telling the consumer to change their eating habits hasn’t really worked and it is unlikely it ever really will. They eat a lot of junk. Everyone does. It’s completely normal and rather a large part of living in 2022. What you need to do is take the junk out of the junk. A lot of it. That’s what project partner Believe in Science does. They’ve made a doughnut under 150 calories (the same as a slice of buttered toast), over 50% reduced fat and 30% reduced sugar compared to other major doughnut brands. And they won’t stop at doughnuts. They are also developing into other sweet bakery treats.

However the icing on the cake, or rather doughnut, is a real challenge. This is because from a research perspective sugar is technically difficult to replace as it is not only behind sweetness it drives function including, crystallisation, water activity, phase behaviour, flow and texture, colour and appearance. This project will conduct original research on icing in a complex system whose state of the art has nearly entirely been based on traditional variations of mono and disaccharides.

This will involve using state of the art techniques that can measure and visualise flow in complex systems available at the Natural Materials Group in the University of Sheffield. The Natural Materials Group run by Dr Chris Holland is a highly interdisciplinary environment which deals with a range of materials, from snail mucus and silk to hair and spines. However the core research field, how material function relates to biomolecule hydration, is what binds the researchers together and makes it both an exciting and creatively rewarding environment.

The candidate will become a team-member of an international, world leading research group, where both technical training and soft skills will be provided and tailored to their background and experience. Specific training in a range of thermal, mechanical and spectroscopic techniques, in house, will provide the successful candidate with a range of transferrable techniques, all of which are relevant and useful for later employment in materials science fields. This PhD will include a placement (6-9 months) at Believe in Science’s research centre in London where they will gain invaluable industrial research experience and see first hand how benchtop science translates into commercial reality.

A 2.1 or higher class degree from an accredited university in the area of materials science, food science, chemistry, physics or engineering. English required.

If you have reached the end of this advert you’re clearly curious, so why not start an informal conversation with Dr Chris Holland to find out more about the role and if your background and skills may be suitable .


Funding Notes

The project is funded for a UK student, with a stipend at the UKRI rate, and Home tuition fees, for a duration of 3.5 years.

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