Barry Wong

Barry Wong

Doctor of Philosophy candidate

Innovation never stops and food science is an exciting area to research, says Barry Wong who is currently completing a PhD in food science.

“I wanted to pursue a PhD because I like how science is always changing. I first became interested in food science in high school. My mum is diabetic and learning about food science has given me a different perspective on her condition and made me more aware of how things work.

“Eventually I would love to be a science communicator and share my knowledge of science with people who are curious about the world around us. I’ve always admired the people who work for the BBC and get to talk about science. One day, I would like to be one of the experts on What’s Really in Our Food?.”

Choosing where to study was easy, says Barry who came to AUT from Dunedin.

“I chose AUT for my doctoral study because I found the enthusiasm from the other students infectious. AUT is very diverse and its students comes from all walks of life. Because AUT is in the heart of the city, it’s also easy for me to immerse myself into Auckland.”

A new take on rice wine
For his doctoral research, Barry is working on developing a novel probiotic rice wine, supervised by Dr Rothman Kam.

“Rice wine comes in many forms: sake in Japan, mijiu in China and makgeolli in Korea. Makgeolli is highly nutritious and contains vitamins, bioactive compounds and organic acids that are known to have anti-diabetes, anti-hypertensive and antioxidant properties. Making makgeolli requires nuruk bacteria, however these are hard to control. I’m exploring alternative methods of making makgeolli.”

Rice wine is non-existent in the New Zealand market, Barry says. Through his research he hopes to change this.

“My PhD research project will be the first of its kind – developing a gluten free, dairy free and animal free alcoholic beverage suitable for New Zealanders’ tastes, and with the nutritional benefits of probiotics.”

A passion for food
He would recommend AUT’s postgraduate science programmes to others, Barry says.

“AUT gives students a lot of hands-on experience and practical skills, which are essential for careers in both research and industry. AUT is a new university in New Zealand, and instead of following traditions set by our forebears, it can set new trends and make new traditions.”

He is enjoying working closely with the AUT Centre for Food Science, says Barry who received an AUT Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences Doctoral Fees Scholarship to support his studies.

“The Centre for Food Science does a lot of research that is outside the of box, and everyone is passionate about food.  For example, last year I worked on two different projects – one involving seafood and how its flavour changes over time, and the other involved testing a consumer product that claims to help people to lose weight. That was an amazing experience.

“I enjoy working in the food science lab because I get to meet really cool people. Every student is working on a different project and the wealth of knowledge they have is fascinating.”