University College Dublin

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Prof. Fiona Doohan
Senior Responsible Officer

Fiona Doohan is a Professor of Plant Pathology at University College Dublin. She has expertise in cereal plant disease resistance, transcriptomics, variety selection and biocontrol. Her research focuses on unraveling the complexities of plant-microbe interactions in order to improve our ability to control crop diseases and thus improve food security. The main goals of her research programme are to identify, characterize and exploit (1) novel cellular pathways and mechanisms involved in the disease resistance within select wheat, barley and oat germplasm; (2) novel endophytes (microbes that live within plants) capable of reducing the severity of plant diseases. She is currently the scientific coordinator of EU project INNOVAR, focused on innovation in wheat variety testing. She is a co-founder of a national crop research centre and the UCD Earth Institute (with a focus on climate change). She has supervised 31 PhDs to completion and 20 post-doctorates and has published over 100 journal publications, 300 conference papers and 5 book chapters. Fiona Doohan was elected as a member of Irish Royal Academy in May 2022.

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Prof. Dolores O'Riordan
Principal Investigator WP4

Dolores O'Riordan completed a PhD in Protein Chemistry and following some time as a research fellow at UCC and Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, she moved to research in the industrial food sector. She has 6 years international industrial research and development experience in the area of food ingredients, as an employee of Kerry Ingredients, Plc. She developed and promoted the sale of innovative milk ingredients for the Irish, UK, mainland Europe, North and South American markets. She joined the Food Science team at UCD in 1995 and has secured substantial funding to conduct research in the area of healthy food ingredients. There was an industrial contribution to the majority of the research grants. She established an internationally recognised research team in the area of health inducing foods and international collaborations with leading institutes in the discipline of Food Science. Her research has led to a number of collaborations with Irish, North American and European Universities and Food Industries. Her expertise in the areas of physical and chemical analysis of foods and food formulation technology underpins her research. Her current research focuses on enhancing the functionality and health benefits of food ingredients with a focus on food structure and digestibility. She is the Director of UCD's Institute of Food and Health. She is also UCD's Vice-President for Global Engagement.

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Dr Angela Feechan
Principal Investigator WP2

Dr Angela Feechan moved to Ireland in 2013 where she is a plant pathologist and lecturer in crop science at University College Dublin. This move was facilitated by receiving an EU Marie Curie Career Integration Grant. Angela gained her BSc and PhD from the University of Edinburgh, UK and completed postdocs at Copenhagen University, Denmark and CSIRO, Australia. Her research group is focussed on fungal pathogens that cause disease in oats, wheat and barley. In particular how fungal pathogens use secreted proteins to cause disease. She is Theme Leader for UCD Earth Institute Crops for the Future. 

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Dr Amalia Scannell
Principal Investigator WP3

Dr. Scannell is a Microbiologist / Food Technologist focussed on developing improved food safety and sensory performance in food through multi-disciplinary research. Her main interest is to ascertain the effects that changes in food products as brought about through novel processing, novel ingredients and new product development ideas have on both the microbial safety of food using traditional microbiological and next generation sequencing techniques, and on consumer acceptance, consumer-led product development and sensory profiling. The innovation in her research is to generate big data describing how changes in novel processing parameters affect key product quality indicators, microbial inactivation and sensory characteristics. Together with other researchers in the UCD Institute of Food and Health, and in collaboration with other research institutions e.g. Teagasc, Technical University Dublin, and DCU she was involved in the optimisation of a number of novel processes and modelled key parameters in beverages and meat products in particular. Dr. Scannell’s vision is to determine how novel processing methods e.g. plasma technology, Acoustic technology, UV, LED light etc. affect microbes at a cellular/ gene expression level. This will give clear direction to policy makers of the maximum and minimum processing levels to inactivate these microbes effectively. Dr Scannell has consistently applied for grant funding at national and international level and has successfully attracted awards from The Department of Agriculture. Food and the Marine, Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland as well as some projects funded directly by Food Industry partners. 

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Dr Chanemouga Arunachalam
Research Project Manager

Dr Chanemouga Arunachalam completed his Phd in Plant Molecular Biology from University College Dublin. He has a Bachelors degree in Agriculture and a Masters in Plant Biotechnology from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, India. He has worked as a Research Project Manager at UCD in the EU funded MSCA-ITN project CerealPath and SFI Ireland funded project Food Shield. Before joining UCD, he was the Head of Department of Research at Nightingales Medical Trust, Bangalore, India and worked as a Scientist (Biotechnology) at Central Potato Research Institute, Shimla, India. He has a Professional Diploma in Project Management and a QQI Level 6 Project Management Certificate.

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Dr Amal Kahla
Postdoctoral Researcher WP2

Dr Amal is a postdoctoral researcher in the plant-microbe interaction group at the School of Biology and Environmental Science, UCD, Ireland. The main studies carried out until present aimed to screen for natural resistance in Irish oat heritage cultivars against Fusarium langsethiae, a fungus that can produce T-2 and HT-2 toxins as secondary metabolites, and study the effect of climate change on both, oats resistance and fungal toxin production. She is a Ph.D. graduate in Molecular Plant Pathology from the plant-microbe interaction group at the School of Biology and Environmental Science, UCD, Ireland, where she characterised an ABC transporter and NAC-like transcription factors that contribute to FHB resistance in wheat. She acquired a Master of Science degree in Natural Products and Biotechnology from the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania- Greece, and a BSc in Biology and Biochemistry from Birzeit University- Palestine.

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Dr Andrea Silva-Espinoza
Postdoctoral Researcher WP4

Dr. Andrea Silva-Espinoza (BSc, MSc, MEd, PhD) completed a PhD in Food Science and Technology in the Polytechnic University of Valencia (Spain) in 2021, during which she was a visiting PhD student and did a research stay in The University of Nottingham (UK). Andrea’s PhD focused on the development of new plant-based products using fruits by selecting the adequate formulation and appropriate freeze-drying conditions to achieve the adequate sensory and physicochemical properties and the highest amount of bioactive compounds in the final product. As a result of her PhD research, she published 7 publications in international peer-reviewed journals. Her research interest includes the development of new plant-based products and functional ingredients, considering different physicochemical properties with a healthy, cost-effective, and sustainable approach.

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Ms Puja Rauniyar
Research Assistant WP3

Ms Puja is a Staff Researcher in the School of Agriculture and Food Science. Her research work mainly focuses on consumer centric concept innovation studies including New Product Development processes using oats and oats-by-products. Puja is a scholar of the prestigious Erasmus Mundus Scholarship (2017 – 2019) Awarded by European Union and Internazionalizzazione dei Corsi di Studio UNINA Scholarship (2018 – 2019) – Awarded by the University of Naples Federico II during her joint master studies in Food Innovation and Product Design (FIPDes) from AgroParisTech in France, TU Dublin in Ireland, University of Naples Federico II in Italy and Lund University in Sweden. She holds a triple Master degree from three different countries- France, Ireland and Italy with specialization in ‘’Healthy Food Design’’ from Italy. She has worked with Danone Nutricia, Netherlands as part of her master thesis, with a start-up in Sweden and in India as a Product Technologist. Her background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology from Bangalore University in India. She received SAARC scholarship bestowed by the Government of India during her Bachelor’s degree (2013 – 2016).