Newcastle University in Singapore

Staff Profile

Dr Gerry O'Brien

Assistant Professor

Background

Dr. Gerry O’Brien is a Lecturer in Food Science. He has almost 20 years’ experience of University-level teaching. This includes three years at a public university in Colombia, South America and 13 years in the United Kingdom. During his time working in the UK, he taught many Hong Kong students as well as UK / Irish students. He was named a Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy in March 2007. Since February 2013, he is based at Newcastle University, on its Singapore Campus.

Dr. O’Brien’s food-related research interests include the improvement of post-harvest quality and removal of toxicity of cassava (a tropical root crop), in which he did his PhD studies. He has also conducted research in the processing / transportation of tropical fruits. His nutrition-related research interests include developing-country nutrition (relationship between nutrition and cognitive development in children in Malawi, Southern Africa) and consumer behaviour (consumers’ perceived risk of Metabolic Syndrome and attitudes towards functional foods).

During his time working in the UK, Dr. O’Brien has also gained considerable experience as a consultant to the food industry, having worked with a number of food SMEs in projects aimed at building technical and product-development capacity.



Contact Details

  • Email: gerard.o'brien@ncl.ac.uk
  • Telephone: +65 6908 6081
  • Address: NU International Singapore, 172A Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8 #05-01
    SIT Building @ Nanyang Polytechnic
    Singapore 567739


  • Professional Membership
  • Member, Institute of Food Science and Technology IFST (since May 2002);
  • Accredited Practitioner, Higher Education Academy (since February 2003);
  • Member, Singapore Institute of Food Science and Technology (since June 2013).

Research

Research Interests

Assuring safety / improving quality /extending shelf-life of food products

Research interests include monitoring of cyanogens in cassava (tapioca) and processing / transportation of tropical fruits.

Developing-country nutrition

Investigation of the relationship between nutrition and cognitive development in children in Malawi (Southern Africa).

Consumer behaviour & metabolic syndrome

Investigation of the perceived risk of Metabolic Syndrome and attitudes towards fat-modified foods among consumers.

Other Expertise

Research Ethics (five years' experience as Chairman of a Biomedical Sciences Research Ethics Filter Committee).


Involvement in Externally-funded Research


  • Involved as a co-applicant / participant in LIPGENEa 2004-2009 EU project aimed at examining the interaction of food supply and genes in the metabolic syndrome. University of Ulster (UU) participation – led by Dr. Barbara Stewart with a budget of £218,137 - was to investigate consumer concerns and views regarding the risks arising from the metabolic syndrome and the use of new agro-food technologies to combat it. Apart from Dr. Stewart, the other UU participants were Prof. Sean Strain and Prof. Brendan Bunting.
  • Principal supervisor of a PhD research project (2009 - 2012) investigating the effect of daily nutritional supplementation upon the anthropometric and cognitive status of primary schoolchildren in Malawi. The scholarship, funded by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, had an overall value of approx. £100,000.



Industry Collaboration /Technology Transfer


  • Consultant and/or Academic Supervisor of three Intertrade Ireland FUSION projects (1– 2 year duration) with Irish bakery / brewing SMEs (April 2006 – December 2011). Involvement (2012-13) in three further FUSION projects with food SMEs.
  • Consultant (under Invest Northern Ireland Innovation Voucher Scheme) with a N. Ireland SME, aiming to replace artificial ingredients in sauces (February – November 2010); further project with the same SME, exploring methods to extend the shelf-life of ready-to-use sauces (July 2011 – May 2012).
  • Consultant with a Republic of Ireland SME aiming to improve technical standards in production of cookie mixes - funded under Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher Scheme (February – December 2011).
  • Consultant (under Invest Northern Ireland Innovation Voucher Scheme) with a N. Ireland SME, aiming to improve technical standards in production of chilled fresh desserts (January – October 2012).

Supervision / examining of Postgraduate Research Projects 

  • One PhD successfully supervised to completion (Oct 2009 – Jan 2013) as main supervisor.
  • Eight MSc projects successfully supervised to date.
  • Experience as External / Internal Examiner of several PhD projects, and Chairman of two PhD viva voce examinations. 



Teaching

Teaching / course administration

  • Almost twenty years’ experience of University-level teaching, comprising three years at a public university in Colombia, and 13 years at public universities in the United Kingdom. 
  • Subjects taught include: Food Technology (Unit Operations); Biochemistry; Organic Chemistry; Research Skills (including statistical analysis); Food Biotechnology; Food Sensory Analysis; EU Food Regulation.
  • Eight years' experience of academic programmes in Food and Nutrition at BSc Hons level. 
  • Ten years' experience of E-learning module coordination.

Publications