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Annual North of England Young Scientist competition

James Gater

SCI and the Faraday Partnership together with the IFST, supported the annual North of England Young Scientist competition, which took place at the University of Leeds on 29 April 2010, and which was very well attended. Students from universities in the north were invited to submit applications on the theme of Food Science, Food Technology or Nutrition, and the entries covered a very broad range of subjects.

A shortlist of seven undergraduate and five postgraduate entries were invited to present to a panel of judges from the SCI, IFST, Faraday and Leeds University, and also an audience of students and supporters.

The judges were asked to consider originality and rationale, methodology, results interpretation, presentation skills and timing and slide count. Points were deducted for exceeding the time limits.

Does background music affect the sensory perception of coffee?
The undergraduate winner was James Gater, of Sheffield Hallam University, with an innovative take on the influence of types of background music on the sensory perception of coffee.

James' tests were conducted using sensory analysis booths and specialist data collection software at the university. James, 21, originally from Stoke-on-Trent, said, 'I was interested in how background music can have an effect on how people appreciate coffee. I found there was more interaction when jazz music was playing in the background.

'Most people associate drinking coffee with a café environment, so jazz was definitely the most suitable form of music identified in my study.'

Dr Kritika Mahadevan, James’s research supervisor, said, 'When people drink coffee they experience the smell of coffee, its taste and astringency through their senses. James measured any changes in the intensity of coffee aroma and flavour, bitter taste and astringency perceived by panellists over a period of 10 minutes in the presence of the different music conditions.'

John Sorsby, head of food innovation at Sheffield Hallam, said, 'James' work challenged perceptions by looking at the environments which people often associate with drinking coffee. It was a robust piece of work and the judges believe it has further potential.' James may now develop the study as a research project.

The postgraduate winner was Elizabeth Mahon, of Liverpool John Moores University, with a presentation on the influence of macronutrient intake on the well being and cognitive performance of mountain marathon competitors.

Both winners received a trophy, cash prize and one year’s free membership of SCI and IFST. The audience played a part and were able to vote. Yadira Gonzalez, of the University of Leeds won the audience's vote and a bottle of champagne for her work on the influences of saliva on the sensory stickiness of food. She also was given one year's free membership of the SCI and IFST. All three winners were also invited to be part of the Food Commodities and Ingredients Group Young Ambassadors programme.

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