Posted on 8 February 2019
Students love cheese. From cheesy chips to cheesy music, it accompanies them from rushed breakfasts to late-night benders. The new paper by Kaja Harton (BSc in Biochemistry, 2018) and Dr Seishi Shimizu proves that it can be a part of the academic life of undergraduates as well.
Kaja’s final year project resulted in a publication analysing the molecular basis of a key process in cheesemaking, entitled ‘Statistical thermodynamics of casein aggregation: Effects of salts and water’ in a journal Biophysical Chemistry.
A key to making cheese is the aggregation of casein, a milk protein. Casein lumps together to make curds, which upon drying and ageing or moulding become one of our favourite foodstuff.
This extension of Kaja’s BSc final year project report discusses the mechanism via the following questions. How adding salts changes speed and extent of aggregation? What is the role of water molecules in this process? For a long time, the change of water structure induced by salts that was thought to be the answer to these questions. However, they have shown that the water structure change only makes a minor contribution. Instead, protein clustering of cheese is driven by their interactions with salts. Find out more.
On top of her theoretical research on the molecular basis of cheesemaking, Kaja ran a weekly radio series entitled “Cream Cheese” on the University Radio York, featuring cheesy music. Browse the archive of the show.