Dr Heather Smyth

Senior 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

Dr Heather Smyth is a flavour chemist and sensory scientist who has been working with premium food and beverage products for more than fifteen 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.

Dr 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. Dr 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. Dr 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.

Dr 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

Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • (2016) 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

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.