How I became a food scientist - Meet Associate Professor Siow Lee Fong
7 June 2019
Food Science and Physical Sciences’ Head of Discipline, Associate Professor Siow Lee Fong has always have an insatiable curiosity about food and its processes. Since she likes challenges and food is an inseparable part of our daily needs, she thought “why not study food?”
Passionate and strong willed, she, a fresh high school graduate then went on to Universiti Sains Malaysia to study Bachelor of Technology (Food Technology), which was her second option that time after dentistry. Like they said, “follow your passions and success will follow”. True enough, Associate Professor Siow graduated with first class honours in 2002.
Learning did not stop there for her, instead, after one year working in a multinational food industry, she continued her postgraduate studies at University of Otago, New Zealand. It is important to mention her university days as that period was when she was most influenced to be a food scientist.
“My professor has really inspired me that food science is the right profession for me,” she explains. “It is important to ensure safe food is distributed throughout the globe. If the job is not done properly, the whole population that receives the food may be negatively affected,” she points out. Another professor of her has always helped her to zoom in food matrices to understand the chemistry behind water, fats, carbohydrate and proteins, which sparked her interest in understanding foods.
Associate Professor Siow’s interests were piqued even more when she realised how she could improve human life in keeping food better and healthier by combining food science and technology. The most common stigma revolving around food science is that anyone with the degree are bound to work in a kitchen or is a good cook.
“People think food science is about cooking with NO science,” Associate Professor Siow exclaims. She adds that it is hard for people to appreciate the course as it is multidisciplinary and may even involve consumer applied science.
Associate Professor Siow tried to dispel the misconceptions by continuously talking to people about the course through course advice sessions, conducting research followed by research journal article publication. Throughout her 11 years with Monash, she has impressively published 4 book chapters and 38 scholarly journals. Her hard work did pay off as people started to see and appreciate the importance of the course. The Bachelor of Food Science and Technology course has been growing steadily under her leadership. Currently, a pilot food processing facility for juice pasteurisation and ice cream processing is built to enhance teaching and learning experience at Monash.
Among the research topics she is interested in are microencapsulation and controlled release, frozen food chemistry, thermal behaviour of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. On top of that, she is interested in food product development and waste conversion to value-added products. Her current projects include microencapsulation of xanthone and catechin, determination of phase behaviour of cocoa butter alternatives for confectionery applications and study on the effect of food processing on the quality of changes of food products.
Her persistent efforts were recognised by Monash University Malaysia in which she received the Pro Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching yearly from 2008 to 2013. She has supervised over 20 honours and third year research students and she is inspired to be like her professors; to continue to instill interest in food science among students.