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Employee in the spotlight: Serena Martini

Posted July 26, 2023

Curiosity as the Engine to Explore the World of Food-tech Innovation | Meet Serena Martini, Senior R&D Manager at Kemin

Watch the interview of Serena Martini

Interview to Serena Martini, Senior R&D Manager of Kemin Food Technologies EMEA

Can you tell us more about your job at Kemin? What does it involve?

At Kemin, as an R&D Manager, my primary responsibility is to lead the identification and investigation of new food ingredients. I leverage my background in biochemistry to explore and discover novel bioactive compounds that can be used in the food industry.

One aspect of my work involves identifying new antimicrobial compounds. This entails researching and testing various substances that have the potential to inhibit the growth of microorganisms, such as bacteria or fungi, in food products. By finding effective antimicrobials, we can enhance the safety and extend the shelf life of specific foods, particularly in the meat and bakery sector.

Additionally, I focus on the investigation of new antioxidants. I study plant-derived antioxidants and other natural compounds that can protect food from oxidative damage, thereby improving its stability and quality. These antioxidants have the potential to enhance the biological properties of different kinds of foods, making them more nutritious and beneficial to consumers.

Overall, my role at Kemin involves the continuous search for innovative food ingredients, the evaluation of their functionality, and the application of these ingredients to create safer, healthier, and more appealing food products.

Do you already have a favorite Kemin segment or product?

As a nutritional biochemist and R&D Manager at Kemin, I have a particular preference for the health-related field. I have developed a particular affinity for the segment of plant extracts with antioxidant properties and their applications in food products. Among the various ingredients available, I have found the extracts derived from rosemary and green tea to be particularly fascinating and beneficial.

For example, our rosemary extract is known for its powerful antioxidant properties, which can effectively delay fats and oils degradation, increasing the quality and shelf life of food products. This extract can be incorporated into various formulations, which is extremely active in preventing rancidity phenomena, especially in products containing fats or oils. The mode of action of rosemary active molecules can also reduce the presence of toxic compounds originated from advance lipid-oxidation phenomena, highlighting the health-promoting properties of this extract.

In addition, I love green tea! Its extract has gained considerable attention in the food industry due to its rich content of polyphenols, specifically catechins and epi-gallocatechins. These compounds act as powerful properties and have been linked to numerous benefits. A sort of rejuvenating elixir! By incorporating green tea extract into food formulations, we can not only enhance the oxidative stability but also potentially boost the nutritional value of the products. One green tea cup a day keeps the doctor away!

The versatility of these extracts makes them my favorite segment at Kemin. I will be ever fascinated by the power of these natural ingredients to enhance food quality, improve consumer well-being, and contribute to the development of innovative food products.

Want to know more about how we use antioxidants plant-derived extract?

What challenges do you face in your daily work?

As an R&D Manager in the food-tech industry, my daily challenges revolve around improving food characteristics, discovering innovative ingredients and groundbreaking ideas and strategies. Meeting consumer expectations, enhancing taste, texture, and nutritional value are my primary goals. Identifying novel bioactive compounds requires extensive research, staying up to date on the latest outcomes and research, being the liaison between the marketing needs, regulatory compliance, and safety requests and identifying the best strategy to reach the goal. All these challenges require scientific expertise, creativity, and effective project management skills to drive innovation in the dynamic food-tech landscape.

Kemin is a huge global company, with a local approach. What do you like best about your employer?

What I appreciate most about Kemin, as a global company with a local approach, is the opportunity to foster relationships with colleagues from different countries. Interacting with individuals from different cultures and backgrounds allows for a rich exchange of ideas, perspectives, and experiences. It creates an environment that encourages learning and understanding, enhancing collaboration and thus innovation. From my perspective, this global network can bring together a wealth of expertise, addressing challenges from multiple perspectives and develop comprehensive solutions. The global nature of Kemin promotes a sense of interconnection and collective growth, making it a stimulating and inspiring environment. As Nimoy said: “the miracle is this: the more we share, the more we have!”.

If you could only use one word to describe your work style, what would it be?

If I had to choose just one word to describe my work style, it would be "Curiosity". Indeed, curiosity is the driving force both behind my work and personal life. It fuels my passion for exploration, pushing me to constantly look for new insights, breakthroughs, innovative solutions, and unconventional approaches. Embracing curiosity allows me to approach challenges with an open mind and a willingness to learn. It leads me to ask questions, challenge assumptions, and deeper explore the unknown. I think that curiosity combined with a positive mindset could be a strategy to overcome obstacles, adapt to changing circumstances, and finally succeed in my work.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in this field?

To someone who just start in the field of science, research and food-tech, my advice would be to feed your curiosity and continuously challenge yourself to improve your work and personal growth.

Be curious beside the difficulties, ask questions, be open to feedback and use it to refine your ideas, explore new possibilities, look for new opportunities to collaborate, to create network, and to gain diverse perspectives. Embrace a mindset of constant learning and innovation. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and never settle for mediocrity.

Like Steve Jobs is saying: "Stay curious and think out of the box!"

What excites you about joining Kemin?

Accepting challenges has always been a key factor in my life: I’m a sportswoman, I’m always competing. Joining Kemin excites me because it’s always a challenge, a new project, a new discovery path, a new adventure. Collaborating with Kemin's talented team and colleagues is extremely inspiring, as we share concepts, ideas, dedication to innovation and improving food solutions. The company's focus on research and development aligns perfectly with my passion for scientific research, the exploration of cutting-edge fields, being up to date on the latest insights and the development of innovative solutions for the food sector.

spectrophotometry serena

If you could learn any skill overnight, what would it be?

I would choose a ‘limitless knowledge’. The possibility to have an answer to any kind of question I could have! As a researcher and R&D Manager, the ability to quickly grasp all disciplines, methodologies, and concepts would be invaluable.

While, thinking more about it, telepathy may be a fascinating concept: already know everything at the blink of an eye, would be great!

What's the most unexpected thing you've ever eaten?

One of the most unexpected but really delicious food I've ever eaten was cricket bars with dark chocolate. I have to admit it, I was a skeptical at the beginning, but the combination of crickets’ flour and dark chocolate created a surprisingly delightful flavour.

This experience challenged my perceptions of traditional food sources and sparked my interest in exploring innovative and sustainable ingredients. It reinforced the importance of being curious and open to new culinary experiences and embracing unconventional food options

If you could only eat one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

If I had to choose only one type of food to consume for the rest of my life, it would be vegetables. As Italian, the temptation might be to declare my love for pizza, but my true culinary passion lies in the broad world of vegetables, in any form and preparation. I find them incredibly versatile, flavourful, and essential for maintaining a balanced and nourishing diet.

If you could have dinner with any historical figure, who would it be and why?

I would love to join a women’s party with my all-time idols: Hedy Lamarr, Marie Curie, and Grace Kelly. A unique opportunity to talk about their difficulties and their strength, their ability to create space for themselves, to grow, to make the difference and leave a mark in history. Their contributions to their respective fields and the lasting impact they made on the society are immeasurable. An extraordinary occasion to celebrate their legacies and be inspired by their remarkable journeys.

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