Dr Helina Marshall BSc (Hons), PhD
Helina Marshall obtained her PhD in Microbiology at University College London in 2017 and since then has been a research fellow at Queen’s University Belfast. Helina is currently leading the development of microbiology (including mycology) within the research group of Prof. Chris Elliott with a particular focus on food microbiology and the impact of fungal toxins (mycotoxins).
Helina availed of the safefood Food Safety Skills Fund to attend the ‘World Mycotoxin Forum meets Asia’ (WMFmeetsAsia) meeting in Bangkok in January 2020. Her objective “was to gain experience and enhance my knowledge of novel research areas in the field of mycotoxins which will fundamentally benefit my current research project into mycotoxin decontamination strategies.” Mycotoxins are a food quality and safety hazard that also pose a serious threat to human, animal and environmental health. They are a group of highly toxic secondary metabolites produced by different species of fungi and are estimated to contaminate almost 25% of the total world crop production.
The World Mycotoxin Forum is one of the largest annual mycotoxin-focussed events which highlights the risks to human and animal health due to mycotoxin contamination in the food chain. The event includes a full programme of presentations by international experts on mycotoxin impacts on the food and feed chain and potential decontamination strategies. Helina emphasised the career development opportunities at the event as she availed of the ‘Young Scientist Sessions’ and other workshops. She reports that “WMFmeetsAsia provided the perfect platform for professional networking, not only with other research scientists, but also with industry partners and manufacturers of new instrumentation which is highly beneficial for the ongoing development of my project.”
On reflection, Helina considers the opportunity to attend the conference and receive such a high level of training, especially at such an early stage of her project, to be invaluable particularly with regard to the future direction of her work. She continues, “WMFmeetsASIA offered a platform for research and industry to come together to exchange current knowledge and continue to support strategies in ensuring food safety and security, but also for me as an early-career researcher, the opportunity for networking with such an esteemed group of individuals was very important. This visit was highly beneficial and would not have been possible without the support of safefood through their Food Safety Skills Fund.”