We proudly put one of our employees in the spotlight. Ines Colle, with Kemin since 2018, works as Sr. R&D Associate in Herentals. A PhD in Bioscience Engineering, she daily contributes to the development and improvement of our products. We sat down with her to talk about her work at Kemin Food Technologies.
R&D Associate, what does that mean exactly?
As part of the Research and Development team, I develop and formulate new innovative products. I also look at new applications to meet new market trends and the demands of our customers. My goal is to optimise components and existing ingredients while taking into account production, cost, safety, … This means I must spend many hours in our lab performing research on molecules and raw materials to see how they react in different ways and environments.
In other words, you are some kind of an inventor.
Maybe a little bit, but I wouldn’t call myself that. What I do is trying to find new synergies and look for new unexplored solutions. And when I do, I’m really satisfied.
What does a standard day look like?
(laughs) Not two days are the same. The only thing that is standard, maybe is that every morning starts with a cup of coffee. I have a very divergent and challenging job. Sometimes I will be in the lab testing, measuring, making samples, … I also spend a lot of time on data analysis and another important task is writing reports. And because they must be thorough, it can be time-consuming. To stay up to date, I read lots of publications and I regularly attend industry-related conferences. Also, I meet with partners from academic research groups. Literally every day brings something new.
Apart from performing research, what else do you do in the lab?
I often collaborate with our Customer Laboratory Services (CLS) team. In some ways, we’re each other’s sounding board; we share our findings and experience. Our goal is the same; to improve our products and deliver the best possible service to our customers.
Is your job completely aligned with what you have studied?
I’m one of the happy few that can actually say that. I have a master in Bioscience Engineering, which means I have a broad education. I’ve always had a strong predilection for research, food in particular. That’s why I also made a PhD, which was about optimising the lycopene bio accessibility of tomato-based products. Now I perform research on food every single day. And I love it!
You work at Kemin for about 18 months now. How did you come in touch with them?
After my PhD, I stayed on working a little while with the university of KU Leuven. My next job was at a meat processing company where I developed new recipes, optimised existing products, designed and executed research projects, … In some way it’s related to what I do now. At one point I came in touch with associates of Kemin when we were collaborating on a project together. I immediately thought it was a very interesting company. Not much later a position opened, and I seized the opportunity. Now I’m at Kemin and I’m very happy about my move.
What gives you the most satisfaction in your job?
The fact that I can follow my passion for food and health in both practical and theoretical sense. I love that I have the freedom to think out-of-the-box and be creative in my work. But maybe the most satisfaction I get is from the fact I can still learn and expand my knowledge within my field every single day because ‘food’ has so many aspects to cover and the industry evolves rapidly.
What’s your biggest challenge?
Because at Kemin we work with a lot of natural components, I think the biggest challenge is to keep a balanced flavour. Also, I have to take into account whether my suggestions are sustainable, cost-effective and practically achievable. But I think every day brings up new challenges. And that’s what makes my job so exciting.
In the time that you are with Kemin, what are you most proud of?
For the most part, I work on long-term projects, so I hardly ever see immediate results. Yet, I can certainly feel that I can contribute something to our company, and I am proud of the fact that I have booked so much progress with my projects and on personal level as a researcher and scientist in general.
If there’s anything you would like to achieve in your position as R&D Associate, what would it be?
I hope I can continue to contribute towards food innovation and develop products that improve shelf-life, food safety, and so on … I think the greatest challenge -and satisfaction at the same time- for a researcher is when you go to the store and see products you helped develop in the shelves.