3MT 2023 Finalist  Zoe Bumanis

Zoe Bumanis

Agricultural, Food, and Nutritional Science, College of Natural and Applied Sciences

Water, Flour, and Time

Introduce yourself…

Hello! I'm a 2020 graduate of the University of Alberta with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition, and a minor in food safety and quality. In 2021 I decided to further my education, and am currently in the 2nd-year of my graduate program, studying food science and technology. I decided to get my Masters because I had a lot of love for food and practical experience in kitchens and bakeries, and wanted to enrich that with academic knowledge.

What are you researching and what do you hope comes out of your research?

My thesis experiment focuses on sourdough (a mixture of flour and water populated by bacteria and yeasts), and bread mold. The goal of my research is to enhance our current understanding of how sourdough bacteria behave when we make bread, and to determine what fermentation conditions are the best at preventing mold growth. This information can be used to help us reduce the amount of preservatives in bread without reducing shelf life, and to optimize fermentations in the food industry.

How did presenting a Three Minute Thesis (3MT) help explain your research to the public?

Presenting a 3MT allowed me to think about my thesis in more general terms. In graduate school I became very used to giving long presentations full of jargon, but by being given a limited time to explain my work to an audience, I was able to focus on what was really important about it, and how it can impact our lives.

What inspires you to do research?

I'm inspired by a personal love of nutrition and baking, as well as a deep fascination with microbiology. So many of our most basic foods rely on such tiny, complex microorganisms, and the innumerable interactions they have with each other and with the human body. I love nutrition and food science because it's a bridge to so many different fields; chemistry, biology, and sociology, just to name a few.

What are three key words important to your 3MT?

Mold-free, simple, sourdough

How does your research impact local, provincial, or global communities at large?

Food waste is an expensive problem that contributes to environmental decline and wastes the resources of consumers and producers alike. But at the same time, people are becoming more and more concerned with the amounts of preservatives in our food. A better understanding of the way sourdough bacteria behave can help commercial bakeries address both consumer concerns, by producing breads that resist mold and also contain fewer preservatives.

If you had to dedicate your research to anyone from the past, present, or future, who would it be and why?

I would love to dedicate it to my entire family, all of whom have uplifted and supported me endlessly. But if I had to pick one person it would be my grandmother, Linda Kearney. She has always been one of my fiercest advocates, encouraging me to reach for and achieve things that I was convinced I could never do, and it was working with her and my grandpa in their bakery that made me realize how much I loved food science and wanted to pursue it. She has helped me to become the best student and person that I can, and I would be honoured to dedicate my research to her.

3MT Image Description: A slide split into 3 equal parts by a thick white border, with a loaf of bread encircled in the middle. The first third has a photo of flour, the second has a photo of water, and the third has a photo of an hourglass with dark red sand against a blue background.

Watch Zoe's Three Minute Thesis