Physics & food: the physics in your crisps & coffee

crisps coffeeA great post by , Regional Officer, Yorkshire & North East. Institute of Physics

“Professor Peter Lillford, who spent much of his career at Unilever Research, said he had seen physics play a growing role in understanding and improving food processing, including the use of heat transfer physics in soup-making and modelling the baking process by making use of the physics of solid foam. He described how the industry could both exploit existing research and explore new areas, such as modelling the flow of complicated liquids in the mouth. While much of processing design was still empirically-driven, it would be much better if we could determine likely outcomes in advance by using physics, he said.

Case studies showing the impact of physics in food manufacture and current scientific challenges were presented by John Bows, technology innovation manager at PepsiCo Europe R&D, Dr Robert Farr, a physicist in the strategic science group at Unilever, and Dr John Melrose, a coffee science expert at Jacobs Douwe Egberts.

Bows said that as a physicist he was keen to encourage more physics graduates into food manufacturing and he hoped that would be one of the outcomes of the summit. He described how physics underpinned crisp manufacture including understanding surface tension of potato slices, imaging the inside of the product and looking at how processing affected its structure. He had worked in microwave packaging and using MRI for remote measurement. Among the challenges he described were using imaging to track microstructure evolution during processing, thermal, electrical and physical measurement in situ and studying the properties of inhomogeneous materials.

Farr said that among the ways in which physics research impacted Unilever’s business was in large-scale numerical modelling of fluid flows, in vivo imaging and theoretical physics. Physics was applied to such problems as demonstrating how tetrahedral tea-bags were an improved design, enhancing the liquid properties of meal replacement drinks and understanding the drying process in foods. Continuing challenges included simulating microstructures under flow, in situ visualisation of microstructures and better understanding of structural dynamics.”

You can find the full article on LinkedIn

Physicists at University of Edinburgh work with food manufacturers too. You can read about the work of Dr Tiffany Wood from the School of Physics and Edinburgh Complex Fluids Partnership.

Hidden Disabilities and the Workplace  

Interesting post from my colleague Kay Barbour on telling employers about disabilities.

The Careers Service Blog

Many thanks to my colleague Kay Barbour for this blog post on disability and the workplace, which contains some interesting facts and figures plus practical and useful advice on disclosing disabilities to employers – Rebecca

The University’s Disability Service reports that 9.5% of the student body has indicated a disability – according to their UCAS code – for 2014-15. While numbers with ‘seen’ disabilities, such as mobility difficulties, increases only slightly year on year, big increases can be seen in ‘unseen’ disabilities: Specific Learning Difficulties and mental health problems in particular.

The Guardian has gone so far to say that mental health is a crisis in universities publishing articles detailing issues for students with hidden disabilities along with Disability sites discussing Uncovering Hidden Disabilities.

The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) carries out an annual report exploring the destinations of disabled graduates. The 2015 report confirms that:

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Funded summer school in science communication


The STEAM Summer School provides training in science communication for university students, researchers, and educators, connecting science and art in science communication practice. The 10-day programme (13-22 July, 2016) at Rhine-Waal University (Dutch/German border) offers a unique experience in science communication training.

There is funding available for University of Edinburgh students. Deadline for application is Fri 29 April.

The programme covers the main aspects of science communication including journalism, social media, policy, management, arts, and science theatre. The workshop will be a fully immersive experience on science communication theory and practice, and no previous communication experience is required.

They aim to train science communication ambassadors eager to engage with various sectors of the public back in their home countries.

For more information:

Featured job – Computational Physicist


Currently advertised on Gradcracker, this role with AWE is to develop, support and improve their in-house nuclear effects codes, maintain AWE’s expert understanding of the physics of nuclear effects, and provide support to customers, collaborators or sponsors involved in nuclear effects.

Find this vacancy and more graduate opportunities for physicists on Gradcracker

Start following organisations on Gradcracker to:

  • find out about their other vacancies
  • show your motivation & interest in them

Scientific employers – what makes them attractive?

Good post on Inform.ed, our labour market blog, from my colleague Deborah Fowlis on which scientific organisations are most attractive to applicants

The Careers Service Blog

Thanks to my colleague Deborah Fowlis for this post which reports on a recent survey of employees of scientific employers – well worth a read if you’re planning on entering this sector after graduation – Rebecca

A global survey has just been done to find out which scientific organisations are most attractive to applicants.  The 20 companies coming out on top are mostly biotech/pharma and are listed in Sciencemag. It is interesting to note that two out of the top three are headquartered in Denmark (Novozymes and Novo Nordisk – both in expansion). The others are headquartered in USA, Switzerland, Germany and India. What makes those companies an attractive proposition?

The majority of the 5,700 scientists surveyed cited the following reasons:

  1. Innovation
  2. Employees treated with respect
  3. Loyal employees
  4. Socially responsible
  5. Work culture aligned with values

The majority of respondents also believed career development to be a much higher priority…

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