Industrial Research Ltd
Area/discipline of scienceCarbohydrate Analytical Chemistry/Carbohydrate Biochemistry
- Ph.D. in Botany from Aberystwyth, Wales
- Studied Applied for B.Sc. (Hons) at Bath University, England.
My work revolves around understanding the structures of complex carbohydrates (oligo- and poly-saccharides, and glycoconjugates) and the way that carbohydrate structure relates to their biological properties, in relation to human health. I’m particularly interested in how oligosaccharides can change the composition of the gut microbiota, and how those changes can alter immune responses for positive human health outcomes.
A typical day at work involves responding to enquiries for analysis from companies and other research organisations, and talking to members of my team about the work they’re doing. For example, two projects we are currently working on are the digestion and fermentation of polysaccharides from kiwifruit, and the isolation and analysis of polysaccharides from honey. Both of these projects are related to understanding how the chemistry of the polysaccharides in these foods can have beneficial health effects.
The analysis of complex carbohydrates is a challenging area of research. Simple sugars, such as glucose, fructose, galactose etc., can be linked together in multiple ways to give highly complex polymers. These require specialised equipment and analytical techniques to pull them apart into their individual components. Once you understand what the components are and how they are linked together, it is then a bit like trying to piece together a puzzle to understand what the original molecule looked like. We then want to gain an insight into how oligo- or polysaccharides can be beneficial to our health, and what particular structural features are responsible for these benefits.
The work is a constant challenge: trying to use the knowledge and skills in the team to solve new and difficult analytical problems that can answer our research questions or provide information to clients that is appropriate to their requirements. There is a real sense of achievement when you manage to solve a particularly difficult analytical problem, although sometimes the getting there can be really frustrating.