Part time AFTP PhD student Lina sets up new industry based study programme

A final report from AFTP Conference this year is an interview with AB World Foods Group Technical Project Manager Lina Zabaliunaite. Lina has almost completed her PhD with the AFTP and combines this with a demanding technical role at AB World Foods. Here Lina tells us about some of her projects and successes during her combined work and study programme.

The research on various gluten-free legume flours and their processing in various manufacturing applications is just the first of what will be a long line of R&D projects from Associated British Foods Group Technical Project Manager Lina Zabaliunaite.

Lina began studying for a professional doctorate in food technology through the Agrifood Training Partnership (AFTP) in 2012. The professional doctorate programme enables students to study part-time while working. Lina chose the AgriFood Training Partnership because of the flexible learning pathway it offers and the focus on helping students turn academic research into applied industry expertise.

Lina graduated in MSc Supply Chain and Operations, later moving to the AFTP professional doctorate programme at the University of Reading which she found was presented in a very practical way. The programme is designed, specifically, to provide food science and technology knowledge to food industry professionals.

“The AFTP programmes are flexible enough to adapt to my changing workloads as I have great support, both at work and at home,” she says. “I work with professionals of a very high calibre. During some years I completed several modules, other years I only managed one or two. But I am still moving towards finishing my doctorate, hopefully this year.”

AFTP PhD experimental work and other benefits

Lina adds: “I learnt about wheat and the science of milling, the science of baking and took the rheology and texture modules as part of a programme with 10 modules. Based on the principles learnt I could design a study that has focused on gluten-free flour substitutes such as legumes that have entirely different properties and require different processing conditions than wheat.

“This research directly applied to the projects that were of interest to my employer AB World Foods who sponsored my study. I undertook a full analysis of the protein, starch and fat composition of the flours to understand how their functional properties impact on final product quality and nutrition.

“By running experiments in pilot plants over a 3-year period, I could identify further product nutrition improvement through applying different type of technologies and developing different food structures. Some of the concepts have been put to consumers through insight research and proved to be welcomed by them, so will improve the competitive advantage of AB World Foods brands.”

In addition, as part of the project and sustainable supply chain module learnings, supported by the business, Lina has spent 3 weeks in India analysing farm-to-fork routes of various ingredients and risk of supply, which widened her horizons in the complex agrifood chain. This knowledge is very beneficial in other ABWF projects such as ethical and vulnerability risk assessment and sustainable source initiatives.

Corporate and personal commitment to CPD

Associated British Foods is committed to the continuing professional development of its employees and runs a highly sought-after graduate training scheme. Inspired by the AFTP’s programme design, Lina has introduced her own programme, Uni Bounce, running for the 3rd year in the business, which enables MSc food technology or science students to take on their final projects at AB World Foods.

“I would love to advance in research and development and maybe one day run my own R&D department,” says Lina. “I would also like to do an MBA to make sure that I have the right commercial management skills to help me move up the management ladder.”

Learn more about the AFTP Professional Doctorate qualification

The AFTP provides participants with the opportunity to study a Professional Doctorate (PhD) in either Agrifood or a specialist subject area.

The Professional Doctorate in Agrifood has been developed in conjunction with the agrifood industry as a highly-flexible programme that can be tailored to individual training needs, to enable professionals working in the agrifood sector to undertake high level, structured, continuing professional development. Alternatively, a specialist Professional Doctorate programme allows individuals to focus on an area of interest.

See Lina talk about her study experiences in this video from the AFTP conference

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