Here I venture into a combination approach, with traditional text and video in this first vlog post, covering my career as a food microbiologist.
I’m doing a bit of a focus on careers in food microbiology, with my last blog article on this topic and now this one, where I combining the written blog approach with the vlog approach. My previous blog post introduced the prominence and significance of microbiologists in the world, and thus as a career, before a short description of the areas of food safety, food spoilage/quality and gut health/probiotics and fermented foods. I then detailed a career Q&A with a food safety auditor from Taipei. In this video, I ask myself the same questions and show the path I’ve taken to become a food microbiologist.
What I didn’t mention is that in 1994, while I was starting my Bachelor degree-level training in biology at Deakin University, I completed a vocational certificate-level course in horticulture, at the then Townsville College of TAFE. So I’m a qualified horticulturist as well!
However, I started as a microbiologist, with my initial training in that area being clinical microbiology with a veterinary emphasis before I gravitated to the wonders of food microbiology in the 3rd-year of my undergraduate degree at James Cook University. I then continued in food microbiology – working on inducible acid tolerance of foodborne disease bacteria (in salad dressing and yogurt) for my Honours research at the then University of Ballarat, bacterial iron acquisition systems which enable them to spoil refrigerated pork exported to Asian markets for my MSc research at La Trobe University and for my PhD at The University of Melbourne and CSIRO, I investigated aspects of dairy product quality. Specifically, I characterised the spoilage process of UHT milk with regard to the free amino acids and peptides that are liberated along with free fatty acids, as a result of the residual proteolytic and lipolytic enzymes that remain in the product following UHT treatment (2-4 seconds and around 140 degrees C). I refined existing protease assays, increasing their sensitivity such that they could be used to better predict the onset of enzymatic-based spoilage in UHT milk. Essentially therefore, my PhD project was in the area of biochemistry, specifically in enzymology and protein chemistry.
For my postdoctoral work, I went to RMIT University where I worked in the Kasapis laboratory, gaining valuable research understanding and technical technical skills in the broad areas of physical chemistry and materials science, especially in relation to the use of carbohydrate polymers and protein in food systems and understanding how application of physical parameters may alter their molecular properties, thus altering their texture, mouthfeel and how they behave as ingredients in food products. I was primarily using techniques of rheology and (differential scanning) calorimetry. Following my postdoctoral position, I moved within RMIT University from what was then the School of Applied Sciences to the School of Business IT and Logistics where I contributed to projects in food composition databases, e-commerce and related areas of improving the consumer customer through innovative retailing solutions.
Now, as an independent and freelance food microbiologist, I operate my own non-affiliated organisation called Food Microbiology Academy. I offer services in consulting to the food manufacturing industry worldwide (both to start-ups and established food manufacturing enterprises), academic support (tutoring, research services, teaching) as well as contract and collaborative research – all of these primarily in my core expertise areas of food safety, food spoilage, food preservation and shelf-life extension.