Food Challenge

Ready for all food related questions - get asking those questions!



Oxford and Cambridge Universities (Jerry Roberts); UCL and Loughborough Universities (Sandra Hill); Manchester University (Suzie Lydon); Surrey and Hull Universities (Duane Mellor); Leeds University (Emma Weston); Cardiff University (Michael Thomas);


We have a mixture of BA; BSc; MSc and PhD degrees

Work History:

A mixture of academia and industry – Universities of Nottingham; London; Manchester; Keele; Industry – Unilever; United Biscuits;

Current Job:

Professors / Lecturer / PhD student


University of Nottingham

My work and the challenge

Within our team our research is varied, but it all contributes to sustaining a healthy supply of food for the world.

If I won the £10,000,000 I'd spend it on...

establishing a ‘Food’ twinning network between schools in the UK and in developing countries and provide scholarships for pupils from those overseas schools that took part to participate in Food-related courses at UK universities.

My Interview

Other stuff


We are a group of scientists working within the School of Biosciences  at the University of Nottingham. Within our team our research is varied, but it all contributes to sustaining a healthy supply of food for the world.

Our team encompasses professors, lecturers and PhD students. Meet the team;

Jerry Roberts is a Professor of Plant Biology and his work looks at how we can manipulate plant development to optimise crop performance. As part of his ‘day’ job he is Academic Champion for the University’s Priority Group on Global Food Security. He regularly engages in debates on topics such as GM crops. Jerry is also is Assistant Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Nottingham.

Sandra Hill is a Professor of Food Science.  She is trying to find out how the different chemicals in foods fit together during cooking to make something that is good to eat and provides the nutrition needed – not too much, not too little.

Dr Susie Lydon used to study the plants that dinosaurs ate. Now she works with scientists to explain their research to the rest of the world.

Dr Duane Mellor used to try and find out if chocolate could prevent heart attacks. Now he teaches students how to use food to treat disease and be a dietitian

Emma Weston has lots of industry experience mainly from factories that make biscuits and flour. She now lectures to help students understand how Food Science can be used to solve problems in food manufacturing and come up with innovative and exciting answers.

Ruth Dennis is a First Year PhD Student.  Her research interest is how plants release pollen and this knowledge can be used to improve crops. She is a member of the Society of Biology and a STEM ambassador. Ruth used to work as a Biology teacher and she also spent four and a half years living and working in China!

Mike Thomas is a second year PhD student looking at how we can make the fruits and vegetables that you eat everyday last longer. This is good for the environment and farmers as waste is reduced and better for you as they will be cheaper and potentially taste better.

My challenge

The food challenge emphasises providing nutritious food for all and can science improve the nutrition of millions of people?

‘Malnourishment’, is a term used to describe a lack of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. It’s sometimes called hidden hunger because the effects aren’t as obvious as those caused by starvation, yet they can be fatal. It’s not just a developing countries problem either – in the western world deficiencies in dietary fibre, iodine and calcium are common. Currently 1 billion people are chronically malnourished.

The best way to overcome malnourishment is to eat a varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables and animal products. For those who can’t afford this diet however, an alternative approach is to eat staple crops that are biofortified with essential nutrients. The golden rice project was developed to tackle the problem of vitamin A deficiency which causes impaired sight and a weakened immune system in countries where rice is a staple food. Scientists working on the project introduced two genes into rice which make it produce ß-carotene which is then turned into vitamin A by the human body when it is eaten. It is hoped that golden rice will reduce vitamin A deficiencies in developing countries; however the project has met a lot of resistance because it uses genetically modified (GM) technology.

Another example of a food made more nutritious that you may have seen in the supermarkets is super broccoli.  Scientists have created this using non-GM means.

Another way to address the food challenge is for scientists to create new foods that are nutritious, sustainable and delicious. This could be non-traditional foods such as insect protein. To produce 1kg of insect food needs less than 10% of the animal feed to produce 1kg of beef. Can scientists produce foods with insect protein that are delicious? Or are there other new foods that scientists can develop?

Which challenge would you vote for if not your own

We would vote for the antibiotics challenge as without antibiotics healthcare as we know it today would be no more; infections could become fatal, curable diseases would become incurable and operations would be highly risky, it is something that would affect us all. The challenge supports finding a practical solution to reducing our use of antibiotics.

Longitude Prize Guide from the BBC - click the image