The University of Massachusetts Amherst
 
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#FeaturedFacultyFriday: David Julian McClements

This week’s featured IALS Associated Faculty Member is David Julian McClements. He is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Food Science. McClement's current research includes structural design of colloidal systems, biopolymer functionality, applied colloid science, nanotechnology in foods, gastrointestinal processes, nutraceutical bioactivity. He is also interested in plant-based foods and delivery systems. 

Below, you will find our complete interview with David Julian McClements:

Q: What is the focus of your research?

A: The overall goal of my research is to create a more healthy, sustainable, and affordable food supply by applying fundamental scientific principles to foods.  In particular, we are interested in a number of areas:

  • Nano-enabled delivery systems for bioactive food molecules like nutraceuticals, vitamins, omega-3 oils, minerals, probiotics, antimicrobials, colors, and flavors.  These systems are designed to increase the stability, performance, and efficacy of these bioactive substances.
  • Understand the physicochemical basis of food digestion and absorption.  
  • Creating next-generation plant-based foods that are healthier and more sustainable. 

Q: Why did you choose to come to UMass?  

A:  It had a Food Science department with an excellent reputation in a world-renown University.  Amherst is also located in a beautiful part of the world.  

Q: How large is your lab? How many students work in your lab (including undergrad, graduate, and post-doc)?

A: Typically, I have 15-30 people working in the laboratory with a mixture of undergrads, grads, Post-docs, and visiting scientists.

Q: Do you use any novel techniques or tools, or work with any unique materials for your research? 

A: We mainly use tools to characterize the properties of nanoparticles in foods, such as dynamic and static light scattering, particle electrophoresis, and confocal fluorescence microscopy.  We also have developed a simulated gastrointestinal tract to study the behavior of colloidal delivery systems and foods after they are ingested.  We also carry out thermodynamic and rheological characterization of the model foods systems that we work with.

Q: Have there been any major advances in your field or the technologies used in research since you were a grad student? Do you find yourself telling students “Well, when I was in school we didn’t have…”?

A: A major advance in my field has been on understanding how foods behave inside the human body, and specifically designing them to control their gastrointestinal fate so as to make them healthier. Another major advance has been the design of foods to improve sustainability, such as plant-based, insect-based, and cellular-agriculture based foods. This is the most exciting time there has been to work in food science.

Q: What is the most useful tool (i.e., specialty screwdriver, duct tape) in your lab, and why?

A: A light scattering instrument – we have to be able to measure the size of the particles we create.

Q: What is your proudest moment ever? (science related or otherwise)

A: My daughter getting into the college she wanted due to her incredible persistence and hard work.

Q: Assuming your research is widely successful, how will it impact society?

A: I hope it will lead to healthier and more sustainable foods that are affordable and delicious.


Alternate get-to-know-you-better questions: 

Q: What is your favorite book/movie/tv show?

A: The original Twin Peaks series – it is what brought me to the US 

Q: Where is your favorite place to travel, or where would you like to travel? 

A: I love hiking in the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District.

Q: What is a new skill/hobby that you would like to learn? 

A: To sing.

Q: Does the love of science run in your family? 

A: Yes, my daughter is majoring in chemistry and physics at University.

Q: What was your worst job ever?

A: Working night shift in a potato chip factory in Northern England – it was loud, greasy, and hot.

Q: Who do you admire and why?

A: Charles Darwin because he had the courage to introduce a radical theory against prevailing views that transformed the world.

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: In the North East of England

Q: Have you ever had a job in industry?

A: Only summer jobs (Potato Chip Factory) and as part of my Ph.D. (Unilever)