Associate Professor Heather Smyth

Principal Research Fellow

Centre for Nutrition and Food Sciences
Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation
h.smyth@uq.edu.au
+61 7 344 32469

Overview

Associate Professor Heather Smyth is a flavour chemist and sensory scientist who has been working with premium food and beverage products for the past twenty years. With a background in wine flavour chemistry, her expertise is in understanding consumer enjoyment of foods and beverages in terms of both sensory properties and composition.

A/Prof Smyth has a special interest in describing and articulating food quality, understanding regional flavours of locally grown produce, and modelling food flavour and textural properties using instrumental measurements. A/Prof Smyth also specialises in researching how human physiology, such as saliva and chewing behaviour, can impact sensory perception and therefore food choice.

Current projects involve specialty coffee, beer, wine, native plant foods, cocoa, meat and seafood, tropical fruits, cereals, dairy products and some processed products and snack foods. A/Prof Smyth collaborates with a number of companies and research groups to discover how and why consumers enjoy food which aids in the design and production of superior products with increased consumer value.

A/Prof Smyth is also heavily involved in training industry and researchers in the application of flavour chemistry, sensory and consumer evaluation methods.

Research Interests

  • Distinctive Australian Foods and Beverages
    Australia has the opportunity to be the supplier of premium foods into Asia and other markets but needs to go beyond traditional ‘clean and green’ positioning to secure sustainable high value market positions. Across all commodity sectors, there is the opportunity to further develop the Australian advantage through identifying and marketing distinctively Australian food products to receptive target markets, such that they are ‘reassuringly expensive’. Defining unique 'regional flavors' of Australian products is one approach to develop a point-of-difference in premium products. Another obvious way to add distinctiveness is to use ingredients which are sourced from uniquely Australian native plants. Projects that address these challenges and opportunities may broadly include (1) investigations that identify, validate, communicate and generate consumer value from the distinctive characteristics of foods and ingredients sourced from Australian agriculture, and (2) exploring how to develop food and ingredient industries based on the unique composition and characteristics of Australian native plants.
  • Next Generation Foods and Beverages
    Future foods will contain natural health-promoting components, such as plant phytonutrients (which act as antioxidants) with reduced fat, sugar and salt levels. The challenge for food companies is to develop healthier foods for the future without compromising on sensory properties and consumer enjoyment. In many cases, it is currently not possible to dramatically reduce the level of fat, sugar and salt because of a loss in mouthfeel and flavour as well as structural integrity. Increasingly, food companies are looking for alternative means in which to structure food that allows it to have superior nutritional value whilst having favourable sensory properties. Projects in this area may include (1) exploring new ingredients and processes to identify novel ways of delivering desirable sensory properties in processed and minimally processed products, and (2) investigating human sensory perception, physiology and mouth behavior, to understand how to deliver equivalent sensory experiences in modified products.
  • Understanding Human Sensory Perception
    Enjoyment of food is highly dependent on an individuals ability to sense the properties and components of food. The human sensory system is highly complex, with different sense organs simultaneously relaying nerve signals that activate multiple parts of the brain. Sensory perception is further complicated by our behavior (such as the way we chew) and our physiology (such as our saliva), not to mention psychological, biological and environmental factors. Food companies are keen to understand the interaction between the food product and the consumer such that they can design nutritious foods that meet and exceed customer requirements and expectations. Research in this area may include (1) understanding the interaction of food and beverages with physiological factors such as human saliva, and (2) exploring the natural variation in an ethnically diverse population in terms of sensory acuity, physiology, mouth behavior and consequently perception.

Qualifications

  • Bachelor of Science, The University of Adelaide
  • Doctor Of Philosophy, The University of Adelaide

Publications

View all Publications

Grants

View all Grants

Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • PhD for ARC and Industry funded Research at The University of Queensland in Food-Sensory-Physiology-Engineering concerning "Beverage rational design for health through advanced engineering and considering oral processing"

    UQ is at the leading-edge globally in food oral processing research that encompasses chemical engineering, physiology, and food sensory science. Our leadership in the field is recognised through long term collaborations with food companies throughout the world and Australia, and dozens of invited keynote talks at conferences internationally and contributions to books and journals.

    We are looking to recruit PhD candidates to participate in an Australian Research Council Linkage Project Grant on “Enabling the design of superior healthy snack foods and beverages through innovative assessment of oral processing and mucosal film interactions”, led by Professor Jason Stokes. This is part of a strategic collaboration between the University of Queensland and a large Global Food Company (based in New York, USA). The student with be jointly supervised by Prof. Stokes in Chemical Engineering and Dr Heather Smyth in QAAFI-UQ, as well as members of industrial collaborator.

    The PhD student will perform detailed study's into the mechanisms by which beverages are perceived, with particular attention to mouthfeel and enabling rational design of low-sugar beverages. We are particulary interested in understanding the role of oral physiology and how the interaction of beverage components with mucosal film coating oral surfaces impacts on our sensory percepts. The challenge in this strategic research project is its truly multi-disciplinary nature, whereby a student is required to connect physical material properties using advanced rheological, tribological and surface science to oral physiological processes and sensory.

    If you are interested in applying for this research position, or want further information, please send your CV, list of publications (if any), and copy of academic transcripts to: Jason Stokes (jason.stokes@uq.edu.au) and Heather Smyth (h.smyth@uq.edu.au). Applicants must also meet UQ language criteria.

    For Students who qualify for Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) - please contact us as soon as possible.

  • PhD for Hort Innovation funded research at The University of Queensland in Horticulture-Sensory-Consumer-Nutritional Composition concerning "Identifying consumer value for and sensory properties of nutritionally enhanced horticulture products"

    UQ is at the leading-edge globally in agricultural research including horticulture and food sensory science. Our leadership in the field is recognised through long term collaborations with food companies throughout the world and Australia, and dozens of invited keynote talks at conferences internationally and contributions to books and journals.

    We are looking to recruit PhD candidates to participate in an Hort Innovations Project Grant “Naturally Nutritions", led by Dr Tim O'Hare (UQ-QAAFI). This is part of a strategic collaboration between the University of Queensland and the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (Qld). The student with be supervised by Dr Heather Smyth (QAAFI-UQ), as well as members of the project team.

    The PhD student will perform a detailed sensory and consumer study of nutritionally enhanced horticultural products, for example high-antioxidant 'purple' sweetcorn or high-folate strawberries.

    If you are interested in applying for this research position, or want further information, please send your CV, list of publications (if any), and copy of academic transcripts to: Heather Smyth (h.smyth@uq.edu.au). Applicants must also meet UQ language criteria.

    For Students who qualify for Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) - please contact us as soon as possible.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Book

Book Chapter

  • Smyth, Heather and Sultanbawa, Yasmina (2016). Unique flavours from Australian native plants. Australian native plants cultivation and uses in the health and food industries. (pp. 265-274) edited by Yasmina Sultanbawa and Fazal Sultanbawa. Boca Raton, FL, United States: Taylor & Francis Group. doi: 10.1201/b20635-23

  • Innes, David J, Dillon, Natalie L., Smyth, Heather E., Karan, Mirko, Holton, Timothy A., Bally, Ian S.E. and Dietzgen, Ralf G. (2015). Mangomics: Information systems supporting advanced mango breeding. Genomics and Proteomics - Principles, Technologies, and Applications. (pp. 281-307) edited by Thangadurai, Devarajan and Sangeetha, Jeyabalan. Oakville, Ontario, Canada: Apple Academic Press/CRC Press.

  • Cozzolino, D., Corbella, E. and Smyth, H. (2012). Quality control of honey using spectroscopic methods. Honey : production, consumption, and health benefits. (pp. 113-132) edited by Gilles Bondurand and Hernan Bosch. Hauppauge NY, USA: Nova Science Publisher.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

  • Beya, Michel M., Sultanbawa, Yasmina, Smyth, Heather E., Netzel, Michael E. and Hoffman, Louwrens C. (2021). Bioactivities of Kakadu plum in meat systems. Joint virtual Workshop between The ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Uniquely Australian Foods (ARC ITTC UAF), Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia and The SARChI Research Programme in Phytochemical Food Network to Improve the Nutritional Quality for Consumers, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa, Virtual, 24-25 August 2021.

  • Fyfe, Selina, Sultanbawa, Yasmina, Schirra, Horst Joachim and Smyth, Heather (2021). Future flavours from the past: sensory analysis of fruit from an Australian Aboriginal community in Arnhem Land. 14th Pangborn Sensory Science Symposium: Sustainable Sensory Science, Online, 9-12 August 2021.

  • Fyfe, Selina, Sultanbawa, Yasmina, Schirra, Horst Joachim, Rychlik, Michael and Smyth, Heather E. (2021). Sensory profiling of summer fruit from East Arnhem Land. The 15th NZOZ Sensory and Consumer Science Symposium, A Virtual Conference, 9-11 February 2021. New Zealand:

  • Fyfe, Selina, Smyth, Heather E., Schmitt-Kopplin, Philippe, Rychlik, Michael, Sultanbawa, Yasmina and Schirra, Horst Joachim (2020). The nutritional potential of the Australian Green Plum (Buchanania obovata). Metabolomics 2020: The 16th Annual Conference of the Metabolomics Society, Online, 27 - 29 October 2020.

  • Wang, Shaoyang, Smyth, Heather E., Mantilla, Sandra M. Olarte, Stokes, Jason R. and Smith, Paul A. (2020). Discerning wine astringency sub-qualities by tribological approaches in a model system—what is the role of saliva?. Third International Tropical Agriculture Conference (TROPAG 2019), Brisbane, QLD, Australia, 11 – 13 November 2019. Basel, 4052 Switzerland: M D P I AG. doi: 10.3390/proceedings2019036061

  • Mantilla, Sandra Milena Olarte, Lyons, Philippa, O'Hare, Tim J. and Smyth, Heather Eunice (2020). Purple sweetcorn—an innovative horticultural product—consumer views. Third International Tropical Agriculture Conference (TROPAG 2019), Brisbane, QLD, Australia, 11–13 November 2019. Basel, Switzerland: MDPI AG. doi: 10.3390/proceedings2019036102

  • Urlass, Saskia, Sultanbawa, Yasmina, Smyth, Heather, Netzel, Gabriele and Netzel, Michael (2020). Seaweed – A Secret Weapon to Combat Climate Change?. Science Week 2020, Brisbane, QLD, Australia, 17-20 August 2020.

  • Ni, Dongdong, Gunness, Purnima , Smyth, Heather E. and Gidley, Michael J. (2019). Relationships between perceived satiation, subsequent satiety, and plant-based food features. 5th International Conference on Food Structure, Digestion and Health, Rotorua, New Zealand, 1-3 October 2019.

  • Fyfe, Selina, Smyth, Heather and Sultanbawa, Yasmina (2019). Roadmap for researchers studying northern Australian endemic plant foods. International Tropical Agriculture Conference 2019, Brisbane, Australia, 11-13 November 2019.

  • Fyfe, S., Sultanbawa, Y. and Smyth, H. (2018). Sensory vocabulary for five native Australian plant foods and five native Australian leaf teas. Australian and New Zealand Sensory and Consumer Science Symposium, Brisbane, Qld, Australia, 5-7 February 2018.

  • San, A. T., Webb, R. I., Joyce, D. C., Hofman, P. J., Macnish, A. J. and Smyth, H. E. (2017). Anatomy of skin disorders afflicting Australian mangoes. XI International Mango Symposium, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia , 28th September- 3rd. October 2015. Leuven, Belgium: International Society for Horticultural Science. doi: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1183.48

  • Chaliha, M., Shelat, K., Fernando, C., Williams, D., Smyth, H. and Sultanbawa, Y. (2017). In vitro antimicrobial effects and mode of action of KP (Terminalia ferdinandiana) products against pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms. TropAg2017, International Tropical Agriculture Conference, Brisbane, QLD, Australia, 20-22 November 2017. Lausanne, Switzerland: Frontiers.

  • Sultanbawa, Y., Shelat, K., Cross, D., Olarte Mantilla, S. and Smyth, H. (2017). Value added nutritionally rich products from Australian wattle seeds (Acacia species). TropAg2017, International Tropical Agriculture Conference, Brisbane, Qld, Australia, 20-22 November 2017. Lausanne, Switzerland: Frontiers.

  • San, A. T., Smyth, H. E., Joyce, D. C., Webb, R., Li, G. Q., Hofman, P. J. and Macnish, A. J. (2016). γ-Irradiation effects on appearance and aroma of 'Kensington Pride' mango fruit. XXIX International Horticultural Congress on Horticulture: Sustaining Lives, Livelihoods and Landscapes (IHC2014), Brisbane, QLD, Australia, 17-22 August 2014. Leuven, Belgium: International Society for Horticultural Science. doi: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2016.1111.56

  • Sultanbawa, Y., Duong, M. Su, Sanderson, J., Cusack, A., Chaliha, M., Currie, M., Pun, S. and Smyth, H. (2015). Evaluation of packaging films to extend storage life of Indigenous Australian vegetables and herbs. International Horticultural Congress, Brisbane, QLD, Australia, 17-22 August 2015. Leuven, Belgium: International Society for Horticultural Science. doi: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2015.1102.23

  • Palou, Rousset, Fuller, Steve, Smyth, Heather and Roura, Eugeni (2015). Transfer of Dietary Plant Natural Flavor Compounds From Essential Oils to Maternal Fluids in Pigs. 15th Scientific Meeting of the Australasian Association for ChemoSensory Science (AACSS), Brisbane, QLD Australia, 03-05 December 2014. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjv008

  • Smyth, H. E. (2013). Flavour wheels. 19th Australian Gastronomy Symposium, Newcastle, NSW Australia, 5-8 April 2013.

  • Liu, Dianna, Chatelard, Antoine, Cusack, Andrew, Abberton, Kerrie, Currie, Margaret, Sultanbawa, Yasmina and Smyth, Heather (2011). Fruit quality and flavour profile of fresh-cut papaya. 12th Government Food Analysts Conference, Brisbane, Australia, 22-24 February 2011. Brisbane, Australia: The State of Queensland (Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation).

  • Smyth, H. E. (2010). Demystifying Australian flavours - a new lexicon. Wild Flavours of Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia, 3 May 2010.

  • Smyth, H. E., Sanderson, J., Sultanbawa, Y. and Davis, C. (2009). Profiling Australian flavours. 42nd Annual AIFST Convention, Brisbane, QLD, Australia, 13-16 July 2009.

  • Smyth,H. E., Kirchhoff, S., Fuller, S., Abberton, K., Davis, C., Bally, I. and Dietzgen, R.G. (2008). Tropical flavours to tempt consumers. Tropical Fruit in Human Nutrition and Health, Gold Coast, Qld, 8th-11th November 2008.

  • Cozzolino, Daniel, Smyth, Heather E., Cynkar, Wies, Janik, Les, Dambergs, Robert G. and Gishen, Mark (2008). Use of direct headspace-mass spectrometry coupled with chemometrics to predict aroma properties in Australian Riesling wine. 5th Symposium In Vino Analytica Scientia (In Vino 2007), Melbourne, Australia, 22-25 July 2007. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier BV. doi: 10.1016/j.aca.2007.09.036

  • Smyth, H.E., Poole, S., Mayze, J., Kirchhoff, S. and Fuller, S. (2007). Flavour dictates consumer preference for prawn and barramundi. Ridley AquaFeed 2007 Australian Prawn and Barramundi Conference, Brisbane QLD, Australia, 25-26th July, 2007.

  • Dietzgen, R. G., Bally, I., Devitt, L. C., Dillon, N., Holton, T. A., Gidley, M., Karan, M., Smyth, H. E., Sunarharum, W. and Wilkinson, A. (2007). Genomics approaches to mango varietal improvement. Amistar Sixth Australian Mango Conference, Cairns, QLD, Australia, 22-25 May 2007. Sydney, NSW, Australia: Horticulture Australia Limited; Australian Mango Industry Association.

  • Cozzolino, Daniel, Smyth, Heather E., Lattey, Kate A., Cynkar, Wies, Janik, Les, Dambergs, Robert G., Francis, I. Leigh and Gishen, Mark (2006). Combining mass spectrometry based electronic nose, visible-near infrared spectroscopy and chemometrics to assess the sensory properties of Australian Riesling wines. 4th Symposium on In Vino Analytica Scientia, Montpellier, France, 7-9 July 2005. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier BV. doi: 10.1016/j.aca.2005.11.008

  • Smyth, H. E., Bally, I., Dillon, N., Holton, T., De Faveri, J. and Dietzgen, R. G. (2006). Investigating the genetic basis of mango fruit quality. Tropical Crop Biotechnology Conference, Cairns, QLD, Australia, 16-19 August 2006.

  • Smyth, H. E., Drasch, P., Cozzolino, D., Fox, G. and Percival, S. (2006). Potential of VIS-NIR spectroscopy to predict perceived ‘muddy’ taint in Australian farmed barramundi. 12th Australian Near Infrared Spectroscopy Conference: NIR a Fruitful Science, Rockhampton, QLD, Australia, 9-10th May 2006.

  • Smyth, H. E., Cozzolino, D., Herderich, M., Sefton, M. A. and Francis, I. L. (2005). Identification of key aroma compounds in Australian Riesling and unwooded Chardonnay wines. 7th Wartburg Symposium on Flavor Chemistry and Biology, Eisenach, Germany, 21-23 April 2004. Eisenach, Germany: Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fur Lebensmittelchemie.

  • Cozzolino, Daniel, Smyth, Heather E., Cynkar, Wies, Dambergs, Robert G. and Gishen, Mark (2005). Usefulness of chemometrics and mass spectrometry-based electronic nose to classify Australian white wines by their varietal origin. 13th International Conference on Flow Injection Analysis (ICFIA 2005), Las Vegas, NV, United States, 24-29 April 2005. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier BV. doi: 10.1016/j.talanta.2005.08.057

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Completed Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • PhD for ARC and Industry funded Research at The University of Queensland in Food-Sensory-Physiology-Engineering concerning "Beverage rational design for health through advanced engineering and considering oral processing"

    UQ is at the leading-edge globally in food oral processing research that encompasses chemical engineering, physiology, and food sensory science. Our leadership in the field is recognised through long term collaborations with food companies throughout the world and Australia, and dozens of invited keynote talks at conferences internationally and contributions to books and journals.

    We are looking to recruit PhD candidates to participate in an Australian Research Council Linkage Project Grant on “Enabling the design of superior healthy snack foods and beverages through innovative assessment of oral processing and mucosal film interactions”, led by Professor Jason Stokes. This is part of a strategic collaboration between the University of Queensland and a large Global Food Company (based in New York, USA). The student with be jointly supervised by Prof. Stokes in Chemical Engineering and Dr Heather Smyth in QAAFI-UQ, as well as members of industrial collaborator.

    The PhD student will perform detailed study's into the mechanisms by which beverages are perceived, with particular attention to mouthfeel and enabling rational design of low-sugar beverages. We are particulary interested in understanding the role of oral physiology and how the interaction of beverage components with mucosal film coating oral surfaces impacts on our sensory percepts. The challenge in this strategic research project is its truly multi-disciplinary nature, whereby a student is required to connect physical material properties using advanced rheological, tribological and surface science to oral physiological processes and sensory.

    If you are interested in applying for this research position, or want further information, please send your CV, list of publications (if any), and copy of academic transcripts to: Jason Stokes (jason.stokes@uq.edu.au) and Heather Smyth (h.smyth@uq.edu.au). Applicants must also meet UQ language criteria.

    For Students who qualify for Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) - please contact us as soon as possible.

  • PhD for Hort Innovation funded research at The University of Queensland in Horticulture-Sensory-Consumer-Nutritional Composition concerning "Identifying consumer value for and sensory properties of nutritionally enhanced horticulture products"

    UQ is at the leading-edge globally in agricultural research including horticulture and food sensory science. Our leadership in the field is recognised through long term collaborations with food companies throughout the world and Australia, and dozens of invited keynote talks at conferences internationally and contributions to books and journals.

    We are looking to recruit PhD candidates to participate in an Hort Innovations Project Grant “Naturally Nutritions", led by Dr Tim O'Hare (UQ-QAAFI). This is part of a strategic collaboration between the University of Queensland and the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (Qld). The student with be supervised by Dr Heather Smyth (QAAFI-UQ), as well as members of the project team.

    The PhD student will perform a detailed sensory and consumer study of nutritionally enhanced horticultural products, for example high-antioxidant 'purple' sweetcorn or high-folate strawberries.

    If you are interested in applying for this research position, or want further information, please send your CV, list of publications (if any), and copy of academic transcripts to: Heather Smyth (h.smyth@uq.edu.au). Applicants must also meet UQ language criteria.

    For Students who qualify for Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) - please contact us as soon as possible.