Say Blue Cheese
Food science student hopes to help people with Crohn’s disease
When most people think of food, they usually only wonder whether or not they would like to eat it. Others look at it and wonder why it tastes the way it tastes or looks the way it looks — and Brooke Luzzi is one of those people.
Luzzi, 19, of Boise, is a junior studying food science in the University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. She was drawn to diving into the details of food and health after she was diagnosed with a medical condition that affects the digestive system.
“I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease four years ago and always loved science, and so now I’m here,” said Luzzi, who is also working toward a minor in pre-health sciences.
Luzzi knew from the first week that she was enrolled at the university she wanted to become involved in some sort of undergraduate research in food science. Luzzi was happy to be given the opportunity to work in assistant professor Helen Joyner's lab as a research assistant, after asking several of her professors for opportunities.
In the lab, Joyner, Luzzi and several postdoctoral students partnered with an Idaho food producer to study the structural properties of blue cheese at different ages and temperatures to see whether or not the wedges would turn pink.
“Sometimes, for some reason, the wedges would turn pink, and it would freak the customers out,” Luzzi explained as the reasoning behind the research.
Luzzi and her fellow researchers tried to figure out why and how the cheese wedges would turn pink, believing that it had to have had microbial origins.
The pink color that would appear on the blue cheese wedges showed evidence that it takes time to develop and occurs in cold temperatures while in storage. Though the team studied the wedges from February to April 2015, the blue cheese they studied never did turn pink.
Luzzi and the team, however, found evidence that the pinking in the cheese was caused by viscoelastic properties in the wedges, where the cheese and mold structures would stretch and reform, and that the pink was formed through microstructural changes within the mold on the blue cheese.
Though the research never yielded any pink coloring on the cheese, Luzzi had the opportunity to present the research for the Institute for Food Technologies. She said she is very grateful for the opportunity she had working in Joyner’s lab and the experience it gave her to reach her goals of being able to help people with Crohn’s disease in the future.
WRITER: Lauren Orr is a sophomore from Sandpoint, Idaho, majoring in journalism with minors in psychology and English.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Yishan Chen is an international student from Kumming, China, and is majoring in physical education.