Helena Mylise Sorensen
B.Sc. and M.Sc. from University of Copenhagen, currently doing a PhD in Dublin City University
B.Sc. in biochemistry, M.Sc. in Food science
Brewer, in a small brewery in Denmark
PhD student in Bioprocess Engineering
Favourite thing to do in my job: Coming up with interesting research idea to test in the lab and the opportunity to deep-dive into the type of research I find the most interesting!
About Me: I am a PhD student in bioprocess engineering from Denmark, now working in Dublin City University. I love anything food and microbiology, and before working in DCU, I worked as a brewer making my own beers.
My name is Helena, and I currently live in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow and I am doing PhD at Dublin City University. I am from Copenhagen, Denmark, but I have also tried living in the Netherlands as part of an exchange at my masters degree.
I love anything microbiology, and I love learning more about the world of microbes and all the fantastic things they are capable of doing! My interest and passion for food science and bioprocess engineering came from always wondering about “how”, “what” and “why” things happen in food processes: how is beer and wine made into so many different styles? what makes the blue veins in blue cheese? why does yoghurt taste acidic when milk doesn’t?
And then for my PhD research I’m asking: what can be done to improve the health benefits of foods, and how do we do that?
In my spare time I love to cook, crochet, go for walks and of course hang out with friends, family and my boyfriend!
My Work: My job is to make milk an even more powerful super-food than it already is, by using and controlling bacterial cells to make people healthier
My laboratory is a miniature version of a bioproduction plant.
My project is split up into different sections:
1: I have to find a bacteria or yeast that are good at growing in milk and that help us be healthier, by e.g. producing molecules that can improve our immune system. When I know which health benefit I want, I will run some test to see if it is also working in real life. This product with health benefits, is called a fermentate
2: When I have selected a bacteria I like, I have to figure out what is needed for it to grow. Much like people, different bacteria have different nutrients or foods that they prefer. To have as many microbes as possible to produce as much product as possible, I need to make sure that I create a perfect recipe for them to grow in, this is called the fermentation media
3: When I have my bacteria and my fermentation media I now need to make sure that the living conditions are also great, by for example picking the right temperature or the right setting on my stirrer. Here, I will apply robots and computer programming to control my cells.
4: So far, all of my experiments will have been in small flasks, but to make enough for all the dairy products in the supermarkets around Ireland, I will need to make sure that my bacteria will also grow when I put it in a much bigger container.
My Typical Day: My typical day starts with checking e-mail and scheduling what I want to do for my day. At the moment I work only from home, but I will soon be back in the laboratory, where most of my days will be spent testing new ideas.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Moved to Ireland to pursue a PhD
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My father who is also a microbiologist taught me about how bacteria and yeast shape a lot of the food we eat, for example what happens when we're baking bread with yeast!
What was your favourite subject at school?
Biology, math and English
What did you want to be after you left school?
I always knew I wanted to work with bacteria, so I looked at different study programmes to find my best match
Were you ever in trouble at school?
No, not as I remember
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I would probably still work with science! Maybe astrophysics? Space and astronomy has always fascinated me!
What's your favourite food?
I love all foods!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I think moving to different countries, making new friends and learning about other cultures! I have lived in Denmark, Netherlands and Ireland.
Tell us a joke.
Why are there no good dairy jokes? They are all too cheesy