08.03.2021

Celebrating our Female Scientists

March 8th 2021 is International Women’s Day and here at Quorn Nutrition, we want to take this opportunity to shine a light on our female scientists, critical to Quorn’s leading research programme.

We currently have over 15 PhD research projects in progress, some of which are led by the fantastic women you can see below. These projects look at a range of topics from fibre to glycaemic control, to protein quality – all looking to ascertain why and how Quorn mycoprotein, the key ingredient in all Quorn products – can play a role in a healthy and balanced diet.

We really could not do what we do without the support, expertise and dedication of our female scientists so please scroll down and see what a few women from our research teams had to say about their careers so far, and any advice they have for young women looking to step into academic research.

Untitled design

Anna Cherta-Murillo

Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, Imperial College London

Research Interests: Diabetes, glycaemic control, appetite, fibre, protein, Quorn mycoprotein, SCFA and South Asian population.

Anna’s interested in how foods high in fibre and protein, such as Quorn products, play a role in blood sugar levels and appetite in people with type 2 diabetes and who are of South Asian or European ancestry. In addition, Anna’s research is focused on exploring the mechanisms underpinning these effects by looking at the levels of gut hormones released following the intake of such foods. Furthermore, she also explores how undigested components of food such as fibre can be used by bacteria living in the gut, and as a result, produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) that may influence both blood sugar levels and appetite in humans.

Why did you choose to become a researcher?

My passion for science started in high school thanks to my biology teacher. Her excellent and fun way of teaching woke up in me a deep curiosity to understand the root of the phenomena occurring in the human body. Being a researcher allows me to fulfil this curiosity, and also to generate new knowledge, which in my case, is in the field of human nutrition. The fact that the knowledge we generate can have an impact on people’s life is very exciting too!

In your opinion, why is it important more women take up research roles and get into STEM related careers?

To break stereotypes and to collectively become role models for the future generation of women. Great female scientists have already opened the path for us such as Florence Nightingale, and Lynn Margulis. We just need to be reminded of them and let that inspire us on our journey in science.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in research?

Be confident about yourself!

You can find links to Anna’s published papers below:

Cherta-Murillo, A., Lett, A. M., Frampton, J., Chambers, E. S., Finnigan, T. J., & Frost, G. S. (2020). Effects of mycoprotein on glycaemic control and energy intake in humans: a systematic review. British Journal of Nutrition, 123(12), 1321-1332.

Corrado, M., Cherta-Murillo, A., Chambers, E. S., Wood, A. J., Plummer, A., Lovegrove, A., . & Hazard, B. A. (2020). Effect of semolina pudding prepared from starch branching enzyme IIa and b mutant wheat on glycaemic response in vitro and in vivo: a randomised controlled pilot study. Food & Function, 11(1), 617-627.

Freyja

Freyja Haigh

PhD candidate at the University of Exeter, part of the Nutritional Physiology Group.

To date, most of the literature investigating the role of dietary protein in muscle growth has focused on isolated protein sources. However, dietary protein is most commonly consumed within a whole food source. Consuming dietary protein within a whole food matrix may additionally stimulate muscle growth. The idea being, there may be other components within food, capable of producing a greater response. Therefore, the value of Freyja’s research will enable us to better understand whether whole food sources potentiate muscle protein synthesis rates (and to what extent across whole food sources) compared to an isolated protein source. In doing so, we can further investigate the nutrients involved within Quorn mycoprotein that may be contributing to this effect.

Why did you choose to become a researcher?

I have always been fascinated by skeletal muscle and its ability to adapt to different internal environments and especially the role nutrition can play on ageing and sports performance. I love asking the question “why?” and being a researcher gives me the possibility to explore these questions, and that is something I am very fortunate to be able to do. My aim is to provide scientific findings that have a positive impact to health and longevity of the general population and sporting performance.

In your opinion, why is it important more women take up research roles and get into STEM related careers?

The increasing number of women in a research setting has promoted the investigation of studying females in research, especially due to the fascinating effects of the menstrual cycle on physiological functions and performance. This has encouraged many to include females in research study designs, as we now understand more about female physiology. This provides a more representative sample of the population, allowing scientific findings to support and benefit a wider audience.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in research?

When an opportunity comes your way no matter how big, small or terrifying, say yes and approach it as a positive challenge not a situation in which you may fail.

Grainne

Gráinne Whelehan

PhD candidate at the University of Exeter, part of the Nutritional Physiology Group.

Gráinne’s research focuses on the effects of Quorn mycoprotein consumption on metabolic health in both a healthy and metabolically compromised population. Her PhD will explore how Quorn mycoprotein affects metabolism in the acute period, and how long-term consumption of Quorn mycoprotein may affect markers of metabolic health in people with Type 2 diabetes.

Why did you choose to become a researcher?

I chose to become a researcher because I love science and I love spending time in the lab learning and discovering new things on a daily basis.

In your opinion, why is it important more women take up research roles and get into STEM related careers?

I think it is important to have more women in research so that younger girls in school can see more options available to them and have more relatable role models in the field.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in research?

The most important piece of advice that I received when I was starting my career in research was to accept you will make mistakes, to have a system for learning from your mistakes from the beginning, and remember that this is all a learning process.


Subscribe to our newsletter

Want to keep up to date with our latest news and information? Simply enter your details to be added to our mailing list.

  • Stay up to date with our world-class research programme
  • Jump into a world of Quorn mycoprotein and discover nutritional Quorn recipes
  • Don’t miss out on any upcoming events and exciting opportunities