Eddie Pelan, School of Chem Engineering and Centre of Formulation Engineering, University of Birmingham, UK
I spent most of my career at Unilever Research, located in the UK (11years), and then transferred to the Netherlands (22years). This was in various roles, starting as a bench scientist, then progressing to skill-base leader, later becoming head of the micro-structuring group (7 years) and spend the last 10 years as the Director of Strategic Science Research for Micro-structuring, which covered both food products and processes and also the home and personal care products. I also obtained my PhD (Leeds, Eric Dickinson) whilst being sponsored by Unilever. Most of my industrial research was in more fundamental (for industry) projects across many of Unilever’s product categories such as Margarine (including a 6 month secondment to the factory), Soup, Dressings, Ice Cream, Deos, Toothpastes, Laundry, Shampoo, and Hard surface cleaning. They surprisingly have a lot in common, as all are soft solids and structured at the colloidal scale!
My current role (February 2018-present): is as a new (but not young) Professor in the School of Chemical Engineering, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, England. I’m also a member of the Centre for Formulation Engineering which is located in the School.
As part of the Microstructural Engineering Group in the Centre of Formulation Engineering, our research covers a diverse range of materials and functionality, across the fields of Food, Nutrition, Pharma, Agriculture, Cosmetics and Home and Personal care. While this may seem like a wide scientific area of interest, there is an overarching scientific rational of choosing suitable material properties of ingredients, together with optimising processing parameters, to generate bespoke microstructures to give product functionality and clear consumer benefits. We are interested in the different physical formats such as emulsions, foams, liquids, suspensions and powders. Much of our current research is involved with finding sustainable (usually plant-based materials) ingredients to replace well know but unsustainable sources of dairy-based or petroleum based sources of emulsifiers and thickeners. We use a suite of modern characterisation and production techniques – including rheology, tribology, interfacial tension, calorimetry, microfluidic processing, in our research, and have developed cutting edge science in several areas: segregation of reactive species, control of particles at interfaces (design for wettability), designed colloids for optimal taste, nutritional delivery and bio-availability.
As a brand new academic, I’m involved in the daily supervision PhDs and Eng.D students in academic or industrially sponsored projects, and give guest lecturers around products and processes in many FMCG examples mentioned above. I am also looking for new opportunities for collaborations both academic and industrial in nature in the UK or internationally.