More than 50 university students and young professionals, along with academics, consultants and industry professionals, convened for the inaugural Young Scientist Forum on 19 May.
The event followed the World Mycotoxin Forum in Parma, Italy, and was hosted by Trouw Nutrition, Nutreco’s livestock feed business. Feedback from participants will help inform and steer future areas of mycotoxin research.
During the forum, participants explored the health and performance challenges caused by mycotoxins. The discussion placed a special emphasis on the socioeconomic consequences that mycotoxin contamination inflicts on low-income households. The aflatoxin M1 challenge affecting producers in Africa is a good example of mycotoxins’ devastating effects.
Climate change was also part of the conversation, as weather and temperature conditions can increase the growth of mycotoxigenic fungi and lead to multiple mycotoxins synthesis. As participants discussed the complexity of today’s mycotoxin environment, it became very evident that management strategies rooted in a single mode of action – such as mycotoxin binding – cannot deliver sufficient protection. Integrated approaches based on multiple modes of action, including binding, gut health support and immune modulation can deliver a more effective approach to management and mitigation efforts.
During an open-mic professional development session, experienced professionals and students discussed post-PhD career paths. Researchers, academics and corporate representatives shared their career experiences and encouraged students to explore the diverse career paths and opportunities continually unfolding for young scientists.
“…young minds always come up with out-of-the-box and innovative ideas…”
Abimbola Oluwakayode, a PhD candidate at Cranfield University in the UK, remarked on participating in the first Young Scientist Forum. “An advantage was to have the opportunity to learn from more experienced industry professionals. The event was a great way to talk about what to do after university and see what research is ongoing.”
Dr Swamy Haladi, global programme manager Mycotoxin Risk Management at Trouw Nutrition, noted the importance of engaging the ideas of students and young professionals. “In each generation, young minds always come up with out-of-the-box and innovative ideas and they understand the challenges and the expectations of the ever-evolving consumer segment,” Haladi said.
Haladi added that while novel ideas might initially seem impractical, they often provide the impetus for questions and research that lead to new solutions. For example, a student in the Young Scientist Forum mentioned the use of traditional ammoniation to control ergot toxins poisoning. Although this method was used long ago for aflatoxin control, the difficulties in the application prevented its wider use. New developments in the application methods may help to make this technology practical in the future.
Quoting Henry Ford’s famous quote: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you have always got. Haladi said: “It is important that the industry brings in young scientists to inspire different approaches, bring new innovations and create a better world.”