June 30, 2020, by Lexi Earl
Using Bambara groundnut for animal feed: an interview with Tee Ann Jo
Ann Jo Tee completed her bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology in 2018 and she is currently a first year MPhil/PhD student, part of the Future Proteins Platform. She is very interested in studying microbiology and has a strong passion to explore more about the potential applications of microorganisms in biotechnology industry. Her current research area mainly focuses on using microbial fermentation as an efficient strategy to enhance the nutritional composition of underutilised crop species thus making it an extra feed source for animals or even as a feasible protein source for future human consumption in order to tackle global food insecurity, hidden hunger and protein-energy malnutrition issues. Ann Jo’s research project is titled: Enhancing utilisation of alternative crops using fermentation and she is supervised by Dr Yin Sze Lim, Prof John Brameld, Dr Tim Parr, and Prof Andy Salter.
Why did you decide to do a PhD? What were you doing before?
After I graduated, I worked in a feed formulation company as a microbiologist for almost a year. Some challenges and unresolved gaps that I faced during that time truly inspired me to deepen my knowledge in this particular area, to develop feasible solutions in order to overcome those problems.
Why did you choose this particular PhD project?
For me, this PhD project really comes at the right time. It coincidently matches what I want and the scope/background of study relates to what I have been working on for nearly a year.
How is your first year going? Any highlights or successes?
There are always ups and downs during research. Things have gone quite smoothly from the very beginning, but due to the sudden unexpected pandemic Covid-19 that has occurred all over the world, Malaysia experienced a 28-days Movement Control Order (MCO) period which really disrupts my planning and affects the research progression.
During the first year of study, I managed to complete a literature review paper and achieve part of my research milestones.
Has undertaking a PhD been different from other degrees you have done? How so?
Yes. A PhD is totally different from undergraduate study, it fully focuses on applying research to practical problems, developing feasible solutions to complex issues and designing effective professional practices within the research field. Pursuing a PhD requires the skills of self-discipline, time management and critical thinking.
What have you learnt through your first PhD year?
I have managed to learn some new research/lab skills and sharpen my presentation skills during conferences. I have also learned how to manage and plan my time wisely and make sure there is always a balance between my research life and time to relax.
Tell us about your research. What do you study? Why is it important?
My research mainly focuses on exploring the effectiveness of microbial fermentation to unlock the hidden potential of underutilised Bambara groundnut as an alternative animal feed which could further contribute to sustainable food and nutrition security within the context of an ever-growing global population and rapidly changing climates.
How do you cope with the pressure of doing a PhD?
I will normally watch movies and drama, have some workouts or have a talk with my family and friends to release my stress.