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David Garrec, a Research Engineer at the Centre for Formulation Engineering within the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham, has just been awarded a prestigious Industrial Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. Only about eight of these Fellowships are awarded every year to exceptional graduates with the potential to make an outstanding contribution to industry through a sponsoring company whilst studying for an Engineering Doctorate programme at a U.K. Industrial Doctorate Centre.

David is currently a second year Research Engineer working with Prof Ian Norton and Cargill . Cargill is an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services. Founded in 1865, it employs 159,000 people in 68 countries. The object of David’s project is to produce fat free emulsion based foods without compromising the consumer response. These foods are soft solid and liquid emulsion based foods such as margarines, low fat spreads, cheese spreads, mayonnaise and salad dressing. Fat plays an important role in these products especially the in mouth lubrication. The lubrication and viscosity of the product affects the consumer determined in mouth textural attributes such as smoothness, astringency and creaminess and hence the overall product perception.

Prof Ian Norton is the former chief scientist of Unilever Foods and heads the Microstructure Group within the School. The approach taken by the group is to design the material properties of soft solids by carefully selecting (1) the ingredients and the way they physically interact and (2) the process used to structure and trap the microstructure in the required state. By doing this functional microstructures can be developed to (1) allow freedom within formulation space such that physical elements (microstructure elements) can be replaced with totally different materials (e.g. fat droplets replaced by air droplets or gels beads) or (2) structures can be built which physically and chemically separated ingredients allowing new products to be developed such as low calorie/low fat chocolate.

This is the second consecutive year that the Centre has hosted an Industrial Fellowship from the Royal Commission. Last year Stephen Hall another Engineering Doctorate Research Engineer was also selected for the award. Stephen is working under the supervision of Prof Pacek and with Unilever ( Port Sunlight ) and is also working in the area of emulsions but investigating high shear in line mixers.

An Engineering Doctorate is a four year industry focused research degree where the student is based in the sponsoring company, but returns to the University to attend twelve week long intensive Master’s level modules in science, engineering, business and marketing and submits a traditional thesis for examination. The Centre was initially set up by the EPSRC in 2001 and has recently had it funding renewed by an additional £ 5 million grant to support a further fifty studentships over the next five years

Prof Peter Fryer, Director of the Industrial  Doctorate Centre and Head of School stated that “ We are absolutely delighted that the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851  have selected another one of our Research Engineers for an Industrial Fellowship. The aim of the Centre is to match high quality engineers with important industrial problems, and recognition from the Commission is a sign of our success.”

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