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FFS research director & UNSW engineer elected to American food institute

UNSW Sydney Professor Cordelia Selomulya has been elected a Fellow of the prestigious American-based Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) for significant service, leadership and contributions to food science and engineering.

Prof. Selomulya – a chemical engineer and Associate Dean of Research at UNSW Engineering – is a world-renowned expert in dairy and food powders and only the fourth Australian elected as an IFT Fellow since the program commenced in 1970.

She said it was a great honour to be elected as one of the 10 new Fellows this year.

“I feel exceptionally proud to become a Fellow of the IFT. The Institute is arguably the most influential body in the food profession in the US and Canada, with pre-eminence in the industry worldwide. Relatively few people outside North America have been elected as Fellows in the history of IFT, so I am especially pleased for being recognised,” she said.

in Chatswood, Sydney. Credit: EcoMag

Professor Cordelia Selomulya in the UNSW School of Chemical Engineering lab beside a microfluidic spray dryer. Credit: Future Food Systems

Spray drying food ingredients

Prof. Selomulya is an expert in spray drying, which is the process that converts liquids or ‘semi-liquids’ into powders in product manufacturing. It has extensive applications across many industries including food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.

In the food industry, spray drying is used to make numerous ingredients, including powdered dairy and milk products, sauces, drink mixes and flavourings. Spray drying can also be used to ‘encapsulate’ or protect active nutrients to create new ingredients for ‘functional’ foods. These include packaged food and beverages that contain added health ingredients for nutritional benefit, such as yoghurt, milk or bread containing omega-3 oils and probiotics. The functional foods market is worth $US280 billion globally.

UNSW’s Dean of Engineering, Professor Julien Epps, said Prof. Selomulya’s selection was well deserved recognition for her exceptional achievements.

“Cordelia has been at the forefront of particle engineering and drying technology research throughout her career. She’s worked with corporations large and small to apply her research to meaningful product and processing improvements in food manufacturing, while training the next generation of food technologists these companies employ through PhD student supervision.

“She also lends her leadership and expertise to a range of advisory committees in Australia and overseas in pursuit of smart, sustainable, resilient food systems.”

Emerd Benico, a Production Lead at Baker & Co who specialises in liquid and powder blending of products, uses a scale to determine the quantity of raw ingredient to be added into the finished product. The company is working with Prof. Selomulya and her research team at UNSW Sydney to improve the shelf life and simplify the packaging and transportation of its range of flavour ingredients. Credit: Baker & Co

New opportunities for Australian food industry

Prof. Selomulya said her work was highly stimulating. “I enjoy working on a variety of pure and applied research projects to improve the formulations for spray drying process so we can perfect the quality, solubility, shelf stability and digestibility of food ingredients,” she said.

One such project she is leading is with industry partner and ingredient maker, Baker & Co.

“Baker & Co is eager to extend the shelf life, expand the scope of application and simplify packaging and transport of some of its food taste and flavour ingredients,” Prof. Selomulya explained.

“We’re looking at developing new formulations, using innovative spray-drying techniques to improve their ingredients while maintaining flavour, functionality and quality.”

The project is being conducted under the Australian government-backed Future Food Systems Cooperative Research Centre, for which Prof. Selomulya is the Research & Commercialisation Director.

Prof. Selomulya presenting at the Food Colloids conference in Greece on her April 2024 visit to the EU. Image courtesy of Cordelia Selomulya

Putting Australian food R&D on the global map

Prof. Selomulya hopes her election as a Fellow of the IFT will help put UNSW and Australian food research and development on the map.

“It’s very encouraging that the IFT recognises Australia is doing exciting research in food technology,” she said.

“Australia has a big opportunity to develop new export markets in premium food products.

“In addition to sending fresh milk or beef overseas, I’d like to see us capitalise on the extensive expertise we have in our country right now and develop a range of value-added food products for export.”

This article was published initially on the UNSW Sydney News site on 6 May 2024. It has been republished here courtesy of the author, Louise Templeton, and UNSW Media. View the original article. 

Lead image: Professor Cordelia Selomulya, one of 10 new Fellows elected to the prestigious Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) in 2024. Image: UNSW Sydney, courtesy of UNSW Media