What’s it all about then?
Research Assistants in food and drink manufacturing work usually work as part of a team conducting scientific and technical investigations to find new ways to improve products or the way they are produced.
Research is vital to product safety, product innovation and new production techniques as well as enhanced formulations that may be used, for instance, to reduce sugar or salt content.
You may be directly employed by a food manufacturing or processing business – or as part of a specialist external consultancy.
To take up a career in research, you’ll need to have good science-based qualifications related to biochemistry as well as a methodical approach to your work and an inquisitive mind.
As Research Assistant, you will plan and undertake research projects at the direction of the principal investigator or research manager. However, you will have a great deal of control and responsibility for planning your own work.
What might I be doing?
You’ll be finding stuff out – and pretty vital stuff at that. You could be looking at better ways to heat products during the production process or how new processing techniques might improve necessary microbiological decontamination procedures.
Most research assistants will have to assist in the creation of reports or presentations, manage and update data sets, work directly with other departments, clients or project sponsors - and always be sure that they can verify every bit of data related to the projects they are working on.
What will be expected of me?
You’ll find yourself contributing to the production of reports, papers and other publications and preparing for and presenting to colleagues or clients as well as responding to direct technical enquiries from clients.
You could well be involved in running internal research activities, including seminars and research meetings and reviewing published reports for nuggets of information that help you, or your company, with the area under investigation.
At the heart of all this is a need to interpret research data and prepare report to agreed standards.
You’ll be both inquisitive and methodical with aptitude for mathematics and interest in the biological or chemical sciences as well as the food industry in general.
You’ll be very computer-literate and familiar with both software that helps you analyse and measure data and the presentational tools that allow you to present content in ways understandable to a wider audience. Good written and oral communication skills are essential.
What qualifications do I need to get in?
Good Maths, Chemistry, Biology, IT and English grades at GCSE along with a mix of any of the first three at A level will help but a quality food science qualification should be your key to opening the door on this career – perhaps via a degree in Food Science, Food Microbiology or Food Technology and experience in a food industry related research project.
Some of the most important training focuses on laboratory skills—safety procedures and the proper use of equipment along with the correct handling of samples and specimens during research.