The Division of Science and Technology (DST) held a lecture called ’Food for a Voyage to the Mars: Fantasizing Future Food’ by the Vice President of the Chinese Institute of Food Science and Technology (CIFST) Professor Rao Pingfan on 8 May. The guests were Dean of DST Professor Stephen Chung, Food Science and Technology (FST) Professor Xu Baojun, Environmental Science (ENVS) Professor Daniel Ruan, Director of General Education Office (GEO) Professor Mildred Yang, and GEO Professor Sookja Kim Chung.

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Students are interested in the advancement of food science

Prof Rao began with explaining the importance of food science and talked about the status and great potential of the food industry. He then shared his extensive knowledge on this subject, seen from his professional career including the past presidency of IUFOST (2012-14) and Professor and Director of the Chinese Academy of Science Shanghai Institutes of Biological Sciences-Zhejiang Gongshang University Joint Center of Food and Nutrition Research.

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Professor Rao Pingfan enthusiatically shares his knowledge

Believing that there are two extreme problems that need to be solved in the world food industry, Prof Rao explained that they were the survival problem caused by "not enough to eat" and the health problems brought about by unhealthy eating habits. The international food science and technology community should actively seek new solutions and food technologies for these two problems.

Prof Rao pointed out that at present, due to the limitations of historical development conditions; people's understanding of food science is obviously insufficient. In the United States, the development of food science has been widely concerned, and the employment prospects are very optimistic. More food professionals are required urgently in China. He mentions this as he is part of the food division of Chinese National Committee for Future Earth (CNC-FE), and is editor-in-chief of Science of Food, a Nature Partner Journal.

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Staff and students listen diligently

Prof Rao presented a hypothesis that the intake of food can affect the movement of free radicals in human body. With "sending humans to the Mars" as a hook, and focusing on the regulation of free radicals on body functions, Prof Rao and his team found that the food with the enzyme SOD has the function of eliminating free radicals, which plays a significant role in anti-aging, anti-altitude sickness and the treatment of type II diabetes. At the same time, they used fluorescent indicators to trace superoxide free radicals, and also found that the movement of superoxide free radicals in the body is closely related to the operation of meridians and “Qi” in Traditional Chinese Medicine theory. He proposed the hypothesis that the essence of "Qi" was superoxide free radicals. Based on the above experimental conclusions and hypotheses, it seems possible to design foods that can regulate body functions to meet the needs of a long journey to Mars. Finally, Prof Rao put forward the view: "the essence of the body is electricity". He said we could develop the foods that eliminate free radicals since the direction of decoding the secrets of human body focused on electricity instead of chemistry.

The lecture given by Prof Rao used straightforward expressions combined with vivid experimental cases to interpret the profound scientific knowledge, from which students have not only gained knowledge of the novel investigation in food science but also created new ideas for their future research and work development.

Prof Rao pointed out that food science is becoming a big topic. Now, people are more concerned about the nutrition and health of their diet. Students majoring in food science should use their knowledge to influence and help the people around them, so that everyone can eat intelligently.

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Students asking questions during the Q&A

Reporter: Wei Xiaojing
Photographer: Ivy Liao
Editors: Deen He, Samuel Burgess, Marissa Furney
(from MPRO)