December 17, 2019, by Ruth Musson

Vlad Dinu EPSRC Doctoral Prize Winning Flavour Research

After completing his ESPRC funded Sustainable chemistry PhD with the Food Flavour Laboratory team,  Vlad Dinu was able to successfully  apply for the prestigious EPSRC Doctoral prize.  This funding allows him to continue his research into the biophysical effects of flavourings on the human body.  We recently caught up with him to learn more about how he won the fellowship and what motivates him to do the research.

What made you want to apply for Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Doctoral Prize?

I completed my Food Chemistry PhD on how the natural proteins found in saliva interact with aroma and taste. This interaction plays a very important role in flavour perception and the enjoyment of food. The unique cross-disciplinary nature of the EPSRC CDT training programme inspired me to continue in research and to expand on the skills that I had developed.  The EPSRC Doctoral Prize is a good way to continue my work in a more independent way. My supervisor helped me to develop a project that looks at products with a high concentration of flavour.

What is the link between your PhD and this upcoming project?

During my PhD I identified that some flavours have an effect on saliva. This effect is concentration dependent so I was concerned that at very high concentration there may be a direct impact on saliva and lung mucus composition. Examples of products with high concentration are some chewing gum, sweets and vaping liquids.  The photograph below demonstrates the wide variation in concentration of flavouring in different products.


Such products can be exposed to the mouth for a long time (chewing gum) or delivered by novel routes (vaping).  Whilst these have been approved for food consumption, further research is needed to ensure that people, especially teenagers, are not being put at risk by different uses.

Why did you choose the Food Flavour Research Group?

Food and nutrition is my area of expertise.  The research group is well recognised internationally, so I am proud to work within it.  I received a great deal of support and encouragement, together with freedom and trust to develop my own ideas,  during both my masters and PhD.  I am very grateful to Professor Fisk and Professor Harding for the help and research opportunities that they offered.

What are you most looking forward to in your project?

How flavours affect the balance of proteins that are present in the body, particularly in saliva and lung mucus is of great interest to me.  Saliva is complex, containing more than 2000 reported proteins.  My aim is to find out how these proteins and mucosal barriers interact with flavour compounds. I may make a discovery that could help improve health aspects of many products where flavour is used.

What do you think will be the wider impact of your research?

By sharing  my findings with flavour houses I will enable them to design new flavours for use in products such as chewing gum and vaping liquids. These new flavours may also be safer and address as yet unidentified risks. My overall aim is to make recommendations which enable producers to optimise products that maximise enjoyment whilst minimising risk.

Learn more about the ESPRC Doctoral prize here

Learn more about post graduate research in Biosciences here


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