ESR 1: Gina Ross, RIKILT, Wageningen University & Research,The Netherlands

Affordable FoodSmartphone assays for allergens

Background My name is Gina, I am 23 years old and I am from London, England. I took my Bachelor degree in Forensic Science at Bournemouth University (south-coast of England). Whilst in my second year of my BSc I became more interested in the area of toxicology, this interest encouraged me to pursue a master’s in Forensic Toxicology (also at Bournemouth). One of the key influences was my interest in bio-toxins; during my undergraduate degree I lived in mouldy accommodation and became sick as a result of this, my dissertation supervisor put me in contact with a medico-legal barrister who was also suffering from the negative effects of mould. This barrister and I conducted a study into airborne mycotoxins, which illuminated mycotoxins as an area of interest for me. I have attended the royal courts of justice in Westminster to present the issue of living in an mycotoxin contaminated environment. I then continued to study mycotoxins (food-based) for my master’s thesis :“development of a rapid lateral flow immunoassay for the detection of Ochratoxin A in Cereals”. This confirmed my interest in point of care diagnostics and food safety.
Motivation When I saw the FoodSmartphone project advertised, I was particularly excited for the multiplex allergen position, especially as RIKILT is a world known expert in food safety. I am motivated for this project both for my personal project, and for what all the ESR’s will be able to achieve as a whole. It is exciting to be at the fore-front of science, creating innovative products and detection mechanisms for important food issues such as allergens, mycotoxins and pesticides. The concept of citizen science is attractive to me as it is encouraging the general public to take analysis into their own hands, and FoodSmartphone aims to provide the tools to make this possible. It is also highly motivating that the ESR’s have the opportunity to travel to different partners within Europe and learn what different cultures , academic and industrial institutions are like.
Hobbies At heart, my fundamental passion is for reptiles. I am an active member of the British Herpetological Society (and can hopefully join a similar organisation in the Netherlands). I worked on placement at Venomtech, a company that specialises in extracting venoms from invertebrates (tarantulas, scorpions, millipedes etc) to fractionate for their use in pharmaceutical design. This was a great experience as it allowed me to work closely with a range of species that I am fascinated with. I also love alternative rock/punk-rock music and attend a lot of concerts in London. I greatly enjoy watching live performances and attending festivals and look forward to continuing this in new venues in the Netherlands. This is a nice hobby as music is universal and makes for a passionate topic of conversation between people in different countries.
Finally, I love to travel and visit new places so I am very excited to visit the other ESR’s at their institutions, present at national and international conferences and receive dedicated training through secondments at other partners in the consortium!

Gina Ross