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Interview with Professor Bob Rastall - Head of Food & Nutritional Sciences

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In the heart of the campus sits the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Reading. It is the largest University department of its kind in the UK, combining state of the art teaching facilities, clinical nutrition unit, labs and the largest pilot processing plant in the UK. The department is internationally recognised for the quality of its research and enjoys a high public profile both domestically and internationally.

The success of the department is truly down to the many students, academics and industry experts that make up the department's extended family. The students are heavily involved within the department and are actively encouraged to make the department their home. Many organise and run RUFANS (Reading University Food and Nutrition Society), which all undergraduates can join for free. The Society organises social events as well as trips to food exhibitions and manufacturers. Students also benefit from small class numbers and are able to make use of the extensive research facilities and industrial contacts throughout their degrees. This year, two of the three finalists (including the winner) of the Science Engineering and Technology award for the best Food undergraduate were from our department.

Our postdoctoral scientists and research students are also actively involved in giving papers. On average 100 research papers and articles are published each year and academic staff edit over 20 food research journals. Recently 10 prizes from outside bodies, including the Royal Society of Chemistry medal for Food Chemistry, were awarded to staff and students in recognition of their outstanding work. On 3 occasions in the last 6 years, the Nutrition Society's annual Silver Medal (its highest honour) has been awarded to one of our staff.

Of course the department's reach extends far past the academic world alone. The department continues to work with the food industry over a wide range of industrially funded research projects and contracts under our Food Chain and Health research theme. This includes one-to-one funding from multi-national companies through to small and medium sized enterprises.

At Reading, research themes often cut across different departments and faculties within the University. The Department co-leads Food Chain and Health, which was instigated in 2005, and also provides leadership for the Centre for Food Security, the Centre for Integrated Neurosciences and Neurodynamics and the Centre for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research. A number of areas have further specific relevance for researchers in the Department (and those wishing to join us), including:

  • Dairy, meat products and health,
  • Plant derived bioactive agents,
  • Manufacturing food products for health,
  • The gut as a functional ecosystem,
  • Diet, genes and health.

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