A STUDENT at Huddersfield University has won a major award – for her research into potatoes.
Sara Walls, who is taking a BSc (Hons) degree in food nutrition and health, was named 2011 Young Scientist of the Year by the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST).
Sara, who hails from Sydney, Australia, carried out her research while working as an intern with Bradford-based Seabrook Crisps.
She said: “Being able to conduct my research at an established brand like Seabrook was a fantastic opportunity.
“From the beginning I had the support from everyone across the entire business to work within an areaŠthat was both fascinating to me, but also commercially useful to the business.
“To be declared as the winner of this prestigiousŠcompetition is a fantastic recognition of all my hard work.”
Sara’s award-winning work focused on the development of reducing sugars in potatoes during storage.
To create the distinctive Seabook Crisps taste, sugar levels in the potatoes must be low. Sara visited supplier’s farms to monitor and test the conditions of the potatoes at different stages of storage.
Seabrook operations director Barry Higgins, said: “The humble potato is the very foundation of our business and each year huge pressure rides on us producing the perfect crop.
“We have been extremely impressed with her findings. Her inquisitive mind, innovative and accurate methodologies have produced fine work that will aid our process next year.
“Innovation and research is key to our brand and Sara’s work echoes this.”
Sara’s research won high praise from an expert panel of judges, who included key figures in the food industry.
Sarah Knapper, who chairs the North of England branch of the IFST, said: “Sara’s research is a shining example of what the food industry currently needs.
“Her use of simple testing nicely demonstrates significant cost savings to Seabrook Crisps in terms of selecting the best potato varieties and their optimum storage conditions.
Sara won £200, membership to the IFST and a chance to get her findings published in its journal.