My central research interest addresses the mechanistic understanding of dynamics, structure and assembly in soft biological matter. My core expertise combines light, X-ray and neutron scattering methods with coarse-grained modeling using analytical and computational approaches from statistical mechanics and stochastic processes. I aim for an integrative scientific approach, combining ideas from different research fields such as biology, chemistry and physics as well as bridging experimental data to theoretical concepts, to finally enable translation into applications.
Towards controllable structuring processes of plant seed proteins
Proteins from plant seeds present promising opportunities to replace animal-derived food proteins with a more sustainable, healthy and affordable protein source. However, seed proteins are structurally complex, of large molecular weights, and often poorly soluble in water.
These differences to typical animal proteins require novel approaches to create comparable food properties. The central aim of this project is to disintegrate proteins from their stored form in plant protein bodies in a way which optimizes potentials for subsequent structuring pathways into food products with desired properties. We aim to translate knowledge and recent methodology from soft matter and protein biophysics into food science, which are very promising for mastering complex systems such as plant seed proteins for food applications.
We will explore different disintegration protocols including in particular varying solvent conditions to extract protein monomers or oligomers of different classes. We will characterize these systems by physicochemical laboratory techniques to select suitable conditions for controlled structure formation. We will use microfluidic mixing environments to systematically study structuring pathways in multicomponent systems in terms of precursor, intermediate and final hierarchical structures. To understand the process in detail, we will focus on time-resolved information from X-ray and neutron scattering and video microscopy. We aim to make the recent improvements of characterization methods fruitful also for more delicate, complex systems such as plant seed proteins, and application in future food products.