Riddet Institute scientists are cream of the crop at international dairy award

12 July 2022 – Riddet Institute scientists from Massey University in Palmerston North have won two of the four top prizes in an inaugural International Dairy Federation award.

Riddet Institute Postdoctoral Fellow Debashree Roy came second equal and Research Officer Nick Smith was third in the International Dairy Federation (IDF) Professor Pavel Jelen Early Career Scientist Prize. Winners of the prizes were announced this week and will receive their prizes at the upcoming IDF World Dairy Summit, to be held in India in September 2022.

Dr Debashree Roy was second equal for her entry titled, “Composition, structure, and dynamic digestion behaviour of milk from different species.”  Her entry focused on her research about how milk composition and structure impact the release of nutrients at various stages of gastric digestion of different mammalian milks, such as cow, goat, and sheep milks.

“Milk is a uniquely designed nutritious food by nature and there is still so much to discover and learn from it,” Dr Roy says.

She says her research answered some important scientific questions about the digestion mechanisms of milk from different mammalian species during coagulation in the stomach, and how that influences the rates of delivery of proteins and fats during digestion in the body. Nutritional information discovered about the different milks can also help consumers find products tailored to their needs.

“The results obtained have important consequences for developing bio-inspired dairy products with improved digestion characteristics, for controlling the release of nutrients, and to meet the special dietary needs of consumers of all age groups,” Dr Roy says.

Dr Nick Smith is a Riddet Institute Research Officer working on the Sustainable Nutrition Initiative®. His third-place entry on “Understanding dairy’s contribution to a sustainable food systemused a data science and modelling approach to unpick the quantity of food nutrients that come from dairy in our current food system. Dr Smith has been involved in the development of the DELTA Model®, a global food system mass balance capable of calculating the nutrition available globally from the food system today, and under various future scenarios.

“The DELTA Model® can be used to identify the contribution of individual foods and food groups to nutrient availability,” Dr Smith says.  “This can then be contextualised against the nutrient requirements of the global population, to establish the role of milk production in a sustainable food system from a nutrition perspective.”

Dr Smith says the contribution dairy made to calcium intakes was significant, with dairy supplying 49% of global food calcium while also making large contributions to vitamins B2 and B12, and indispensable amino acids.

“The nutrients provided by milk are currently of major importance to global nutrition. Any change to this status – either increasing or decreasing this contribution – must take the full nutritional consequences of this change into account, alongside the other considerations of sustainability.”

The IDF Professor Pavel Jelen Early Career Scientist Prize was created to acknowledge the work of scientists and/or technologists in the dairy science and technology field and aimed toward “early-career” scientists, including graduate and postgraduate students, who are less than three years since graduation from their highest degree attained. It has been named in honour of Professor Pavel (Paul) Jelen, a Czech-born scientist and educator who has spent his career based in Canada and the United States, practising dairy science and technology in his research pursuits, and encouraging, mentoring, and educating students and early-career scientists and technologists.

The award’s Judging Panel Chair Geoffrey Smithers says the inaugural prize attracted high-quality applications, with rigorous science and technology components as well as outstanding levels of presentation. Awardees were carefully selected by a panel of judges with expertise across a broad range of disciplines related to dairy science and technology and drawn from several International Dairy Foundation standing committees.

Debashree Roy will receive a printed certificate recognising her achievement and an honorarium of €200, and Nick Smith will receive a printed certificate recognising his achievement and an honorarium of €100.

The Riddet Institute is a New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence and is hosted by Massey University in Palmerston North. The International Dairy Foundation is the leading source of scientific and technical expertise for all stakeholders of the dairy chain. Since 1903, IDF has provided a mechanism for the dairy sector to reach a global consensus on how to help feed the world with safe and sustainable dairy products.

The winners of the inaugural “IDF Professor Pavel Jelen Early Career Scientist Prize 2022” are:
• First Place: Angela Costa (Mid-IR spectroscopy for an accurate prediction of IgG concentration in bovine colostrum)
• Equal Second Place: Debashree Roy (Composition, structure, and dynamic digestion behaviour of milk from different species)
• Equal Second Place: Prabin Lamichhane (Structure-function relationships: new insights into controlling split and crack defects in cheese)
• Third Place: Nick Smith (Understanding dairy’s contribution to a sustainable food system).

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