Beautiful bran

Publication date
Tuesday, 8 Sep 2015

PhD student Ronald Yu from the Research School of Biology is bringing his ‘Big Bran Theory’ to the ANU grand final of the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.  

You would be right in assuming that bran packs a big nutritional punch whilst helping us meet our dietary fiber needs. But there is one more way that bran can reduce the time we spend in the bathroom each day, and it’s not what you would expect.

As PhD student Ronald Yu will explain at the 3MT ANU grand final next Wednesday, bigger and better bran can help make us all become more beautiful.

But before you throw away that expensive moisturiser, Ronald is hoping that his presentation titled ‘Big Bran Theory’ will give you even better reasons to reach for the whole grains next time you are in the supermarket.

“I research a tiny bit inside a tiny rice grain, which is too small to capture popular imagination. So I make it ‘sexy’ by relating it to beauty and health tips,” he explains.

Ronald hopes to use his research into increasing the amount of bran in rice as a new way of increasing the micronutrient content of rice and wheat, so we can all be healthier. 

“As a food scientist, I focus on nutrition improvement for public health,” he says.

“In developed countries, such as Australia, big bran wheat can help in the prevention of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. While in developing countries, smallholder farmers can use big bran rice as a food supplement to alleviate their micronutrient deficiency problems.”

For Ronald, the 3MT competition is a way to sharpen his communication skills, which he says are particularly important for food scientists.

“Research alone doesn’t give us the road map. Instead, it involves getting the funding agent to support us, the public health scientist to evaluate the impacts of our research, and the companies or aid foundations to help turn our research into real products,” he says.

“Communicating our ideas with different stakeholders is essential.”

Of course communication isn’t the only important skill needed for successfully navigating a PhD in biological science, and as Ronald explains, persistence can definitely pay off.

“The lowest low is the moment when you walk back home alone on a snowy midnight at -20oC after failing every experiment you did,” he explains.

“But the highest high was when even after facing these failures, my supervisor’s response was: ‘I don’t believe scientists have special talents instead of persistence. After the first, second and third failures, just keep trying and you will get it.’ ”