Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Edible Applications Technology Division Award Winner Feature: Maria Scharfe

Q&A with Edible Applications Technology Division Award Winner: Maria Scharfe

Bio: Maria Scharfe is a Ph.D. student in the department of Food Process Engineering at the Technical University of Berlin, Germany. She earned a BS and MS in food technology specializing in general process engineering, sugar and fat technology, and functional microorganisms. During her studies, she worked at Nordzucker (sugar production) and Unilever (R&D spreads and dressings) for 6 months each. For the duration of her time at Unilever Rotterdam, she had the chance to plan and execute her own research project in emulsion technology. Working independently and in-depth on this project led to the decision to do a PhD which she is set to complete in 2020. Her current interests and research include the influence of solvent composition on various oleogel systems to unravel their impact on the final product properties on a microscopic and macroscopic scale. This will hopefully enable a better understanding of oleogel characteristics and formation which in turn facilitates industrial applications.

1) What was your reaction when you learned you won Edible Applications Technology Division Award?

I felt very happy and honored and actually started dancing in the kitchen :)

2) How did you get started in the area of focus that you are studying?

I have been interested in the production of food since I was a child. My dad was a mechanical engineer and worked for numerous food companies in the Berlin area. During summer holidays, I often got to accompany him. At university, I decided to study food technology, and by the time I finished my masters I knew I wanted to work in the sciences. Since I worked a lot in sugar research, I was very happy that a project in the field of oils and fats (oleogelation) was available at that time.

3) What challenges have you overcome during your course of study?

Many! Our department had to move twice during my PhD which was probably the most challenging and time-consuming hurdle. Moreover, a lack of self-motivation along with a high level of frustration is quite common for Ph.D. students every now and then :)

4) Do you have any words of wisdom for other AOCS student members?

Start presenting your data to others at conferences or even within your research group. 

5) How has winning the AOCS Edible Applications Technology Division Award helped you develop as a young scientist?

Due to the current situation and the cancellation of the conference, not that much yet. But I hope that it will look appealing on my CV.

6) Can you tell us about your current research?

It was stated in several studies that the type of solvent has a major impact on oleogel properties. To successfully implement oleogels in food products the mechanism responsible for these changes must be understood. The aim of my research is to unravel the influence of oil composition on various oil systems. To that end, the effect of the continuous phase (TAGs) and minor oil compounds such as free fatty acids must be considered separately.

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