Current Focus Area
The main focus of Dr. Ian Thompson's work is applied research in food science, with the ultimate goal to improve food security, that is, the ability of the country to meet its nutritional needs. The approach is to target potential areas for production and to examine how technology can provide solutions, with the objective to foster increased utilisation of local raw material as substitutes for imports and the increased production of value added goods for export.
His research incorporates novel, appropriate technologies for process and product development of foods which can compete with imports and have an impact on the market. The existing scenario whereby locally manufactured products are less sought after than their imported counterparts presents a prime opportunity for local manufacturers to successfully produce goods which are on par with or preferred to the imports.
Currently, he is investigating cassava flour as a substitute for imported wheat flour, with a view to determining the characteristics of cassava flour which will extend its application into the widest possible range of consumer goods. This work also extends to determining the glycemic index of cassava. Research has been progressing reasonably well and having secured the donation of a pilot cassava flour processing plant, it is anticipated that this will have an impact on the local market in a few, short years.
Research tools used include gas chromatography, liquid chromatography, spectroscopy and sensory evaluation with human subjects. As a minor research interest, Dr. Thompson explores strategies for developing entrepreneurial talent in students.
Other Research Interests
Food Product Research & Development.
Flavour delivery systems utilizing Micro-Encapsulation techniques: Micro-encapsulation technology has wide application in the pharmaceutical and food industries, and is associated with the targeted and slow release of drugs, as well as delivering probiotics (beneficial microbes) to the intestines. On-going research will seek to develop local expertise in micro-encapsulation techniques using model food systems,
Sensory Evaluation (SE): Sensory Evaluation (e.g. taste testing) is an important compliment to instrumental analysis – in assessing product quality and consumer acceptance. Within the local context, SE is an underutilized technique and has application within the food and non-food industries. Research efforts are intended to correlate product attributes to consumer acceptance while incorporating the sensory perceptions of the UWI student body (as future trend setters and leaders).
2. Identification and Screening of local agro-crops as candidates for Bio-diesel production.
Recent increases in the cost of fossil fuels and the resulting diversion of food crops to bio-fuels (corn to ethanol, etc.) have raised concerns about Jamaica’s food security and highlighted our economy’s vulnerability to external pressures. As part of efforts to identify sources of renewable energy, local agro-crops will be screened to identify possible candidates for bio-diesel production which, if commercialized, would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, stimulate economic activity and reduce environmental pollutants (improve air quality).
3. Developing Entrepreneurial skills in Chemistry undergraduate students.
Science education curricula have traditionally prepared students for specific roles in existing organizations. Traditionally, new graduates are not equipped to function in a society which is contracting (resulting from either loss of preferential export markets or paradigm shifts in production technology). Strategies are being developed to improve student learning outcomes by encouraging an entrepreneurial orientation through a series of guided team building exercises, and project work directed business plan development – based on a science based business idea