New information following the change in COVID-19 alert levels.

China to New Zealand in pursuit of the perfect sourdough

Lucy Yang at a Massey University Laboratory

Lucy Yang came to New Zealand from China to pursue her dream of becoming a food technologist, a goal she is well on her way to achieving.

After gaining a Bachelor of Science in Applied Chemistry in Shanghai and a Postgraduate Diploma from the University of Auckland, Ms Yang chose to come to Massey University to further her research. Studying a Master of Science in food technology and processing at Massey’s Auckland campus, she has quickly become one of the University’s most promising postgraduate students. 

Her research focuses on the composition of the starter culture used to make gluten-free sourdough bread.

Sourdough bread is produced by back sloping, this involves using a batch of previously fermented sourdough to initiate a new batch of fermentation. In most cases, the starter cultures within previous batches are unknown.

Sponsored by the University and Venerdi Limited, her focus is to identify the species of lactic acid bacteria and study how they affect the quality of gluten-free sourdough bread.

By identifying these starter cultures, the functions of the microbes within can be examined. An understanding of the roles of such microbes will allow a more controlled production process. This refined sourdough production process will bring about a higher quality of gluten-free sourdough bread than ever before. 

In 2017, Ms Yang had the unique challenge of explaining this work, which has taken over one and a half years, in 180 seconds in the Three-minute Thesis Competition. She focused on how a deeper understanding of lactic acid bacteria could benefit future development of product quality, and the judges agreed, making her a finalist. 

Ms Yang says there have been many applications for her research with more to come “By doing minor adjustments they might process more consistent and high quality products to meet consumer satisfaction in New Zealand, and the export market.”

She says her most rewarding experience within her Master’s degree was one particular experiment that proved challenging. “ DNA sequencing. I finally extracted DNA from yeasts and that moment was really rewarding”.

Ms Yang’s work gained her the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment Scholarship, enabling her to attend the New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology conference.

She says studying in New Zealand has given her the skills to excel in the food technology industry. “we’re gaining a solid skill from this post graduate study, not only the technical side, the lab skills, but also the self-discipline, time management, and communication skills, which is a really rewarding thing for me.”

This hard work is evident in her achievements, but she insists she is also very lucky and attributes much of her success to her supervisor Dr Tony Mutukumira and her co-supervisor Associate Professor Kay Rutherford-Markwick. “ Tony is one of the most supportive supervisors. I’m very lucky to have met him.” She also credits the friends she has met at part of her university study. 

“The Primary industries here are developing, and export market share to Asian countries is increasing. After my studies are completed, I hope to achieve my dream of becoming  a food technologist in New Zealand.”

Contact us Mon - Fri 8:30am to 4:30pm 0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701) TXT 5222 Web chat Staff Alumni News Māori @ Massey