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My PhD experience – Katie Costello, PhD Chemical and Process Engineering

“I have access to a large range of ultrasonic equipment, and also fantastic bio-labs where I conduct my bacterial research.”

Having studied at Surrey for my integrated MEng programme, I knew it was the right place for my PhD. The facilities are fantastic and the supervision is great – I’ve had a lot of support from my supervisors, Dr Eirini Velliou, Dr Madeleine Bussemaker and Dr Jorge Gutierrez. The Department of Chemical and Process Engineering is very supportive and there are a lot of training opportunities on offer.

My PhD is focused on food safety and, more specifically, on understanding the development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) during novel food processing. Nowadays, there is a consumer-driven demand for food products that are high in nutritional content and sensory characteristics (flavour/texture), with as few chemical preservatives as possible. As a result, there’s increased interest in the food industry in minimal food processing, which includes the replacement of chemical preservatives with natural antimicrobial compounds and the application of novel non-thermal technologies for microbial decontamination (ultrasound, cold atmospheric plasma etc). However, as these treatments are naturally milder than traditional food processing, they could lead to an increased microbial resistance and survival resulting in unsafe food products. In my work, I develop in vitro food models in which I study (experimentally and mathematically) the evolution of food related pathogens as influenced by novel processing.

I began my PhD in October 2016 and have already had the chance to attend the Q-Safe International Conference, where I presented my work and met many other predictive microbiologists with similar research interests. Over the next few years, I aim to present my work at further conferences, as well as to publish papers in academic journals.

I’ll be spending the third year of my PhD with the BioTeC Research Group at KU (Katholieke Universiteit) Leuven in Belgium, led by Professor Jan Van Impe, which promises to be a very exciting year. The BioTeC group is already looking into cold atmospheric plasma, and I look forward to collaborating with them.

I’ve really enjoyed my time at Surrey so far and am looking forward to the next few years. The Surrey campus is one of the main reasons I chose the University for my undergraduate degree, and that hasn’t changed – there’s nothing better than sitting by the lake on a sunny day!

Discover our programmes in Chemical and Process Engineering, including our PhD in Chemical and Process Engineering.

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