Getting to know.... Dr Choo Wee Sim

18 November 2019

People today are becoming more health conscious in the sense that they take more time to read the product labels. However, unknowingly they get tricked into thinking that the foods are healthy when they see words like “low fat” or “natural”. Unfortunately, that is not the case because being low fat or natural does not exclude them from being loaded with salt or sugar. Only a food scientist will know as they study the elements of food.

Food science plays an integral part in our life but not many understands the importance of it. “In fact, any food item that you buy from a supermarket has been influenced by food science,” says Dr Choo Wee Sim, senior lecturer in Food Science and Technology.

Now, that must have led you thinking even the vegetables from the organic aisle are not safe to be consumed since it has been “processed” in some way or the other. In the world of food science, processing a food means changing something about the food. Whether it be cut down into smaller sizes or shapes, as long as the food has been altered (even though not chemically or genetically changed), it is considered processed.

There is a misconception that studying food science is not useful as people believe students with the degree would technically become factory workers. Undeniably, food science studies everything related to the food, beginning with harvesting and preparation and ending with processing and consumption. However, did you know that by understanding these information you can make a difference to the health and well-being of future generations?

“I always have this believe that if your food is right, you may not need medicine,” Dr Choo says. And that was how she got interested in learning the science of food and various technologies to produce foods that retain their nutritional and beneficial effects.

After high school, Dr Choo went on to study Bachelor of Science in Food Studies at Universiti Putra Malaysia in 1998. She majored in Food Quality Management with a first class Honours before furthering to Master of Science in the field of Food Chemistry and Biochemistry. She then joined the Malaysian Palm Oil Board as a research officer prior moving to University of Otago, New Zealand to complete a PhD in Food Science in 2008.

She joined Monash University soon after and is now a senior lecturer in the School of Science. Her current research interests focus on functional foods and they are foods that provide health benefits besides their basic nutrition. Her work focuses on extraction and application of bioactive compounds from food sources, phytochemicals, probiotics and prebiotics. She is investigating and pioneering works on various bioactivities of natural coloured pigments such as betalains and anthocyanins. Bioactivities include antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-biofilm, anti-infective etc.

Aside from her strong interest in the subject, Dr Choo is passionate about teaching it as well. In 2010 and 2011, she was awarded not one or two but three PVC’s Awards for excellence in teaching. All thanks to her engaging teaching style, students have been loving her classes and not to mention have greater enthusiasm for food science.