PhD/Masters by Research Scholarship in Protein-Phenolic Interactions in UHT Beverages

Exciting opportunity to improve liquid food systems that contain a high proportion of plant-based ingredients, leading to a positive impact on the environment and consumer health.

This project is funded by the Australian Research Council, in collaboration with Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing, focusing on the effective incorporation of plant-based ingredients in beverage formulations.

Chronic health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD) have steadily risen to become one of the main causes of illness or premature mortality in Australia. Such conditions can be prevented or delayed by improving diet and exercise habits. One of the main issues in the processed foods market is the low amount of dietary fibre when compared to their unprocessed counterparts. Increasing the daily average intake of dietary fibre for the Australian population would play an important role in reducing chronic disease risk factors. In solid-like foods this can be addressed relatively easily, however, liquid food systems represent a far greater challenge. Fibres (especially insoluble fibres) are rich in phytochemicals including phenolic compounds. In ultra-high temperature (UHT) processed liquid foods, these have been shown to be responsible for off flavour development, as well as interacting chemically with proteins. This contrasts strongly with the expected physical interactions observed under ambient conditions of processing and storage. This research area is the result of a collaboration between Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing and RMIT University, funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC). The project aims to gain a fundamental understanding of interactions occurring between proteins and phenolic compounds under UHT conditions, to aid in the successful incorporation of insoluble dietary fibre into liquid beverage products.

Lab scale UHT processing will be conducted on liquid foods, and the effect on protein secondary structure, interaction binding strength and stoichiometry will be assessed using a variety of spectrographic methods. This will lead to an understanding of the effect of phenolic structure, treatment temperature and protein type on their interactions. Further direct analysis using a variety of approaches including MALDI-TOF-MS will elucidate the binding site(s) on the protein. These sites will be compared to theoretical molecular dynamic simulations, performed on high performance computing systems using open source GROMACS software, to gain an understanding of the dynamics involved in the interactions.

$31,260 per annum pro rata (full-time study). This amount is subject to indexation annually.

Duration is three years with a possible extension of six months (full-time)

Candidates with backgrounds in food technology are encouraged to apply.

To be eligible for this scholarship you must:

  • have first-class Honours or equivalent or a Masters by Research degree in a relevant discipline of science (PhD applicants)
  • Completed an undergraduate degree in a relevant field with a GPA of at least 3.4 (Masters applicants)
  • be an Australian citizen or Australian permanent resident
  • provide evidence of adequate oral and written communication skills
  • demonstrate the ability to work as part of a research team.

To apply, please submit the following documents to Professor Stefan Kasapis via

  • A cover letter (research statement)
  • a copy of electronic academic transcripts
  • a CV that includes any publications/awards and the contact details of two referees.

Successful candidates will be invited to submit a full application for admission to PhD/Masters by Research (Food Science) (DR232/ MR232).

Scholarship applications will only be successful if prospective candidates are provided with an offer for admission.

Applications are open now.

Applications will close once candidates are appointed.

This scholarship will be governed by RMIT University's Research Scholarship Terms and Conditions.

For further information please contact:

Professor Stefan Kasapis

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.