A white coat and a better world

Zhong-qing Jiang, who dreamed of working as a physician in China ended up as a food scientist and inventor of pulled oats in Finland.

Zhong-qing Jiang grew up in eastern China in the Anhui province. By Chinese standards, he is a small-town boy, since the city in which he was born only has six to seven million inhabitants.

“It was the will of my grandfather and also my own dream that I should become a physician and someday save human lives,” says Jiang.

However, Jiang did not succeed in the entrance examination to medical school and he drifted somewhat accidentally to food science.

“Well, at least the white coat links these two fields,” jokes Jiang.

“And food scientists can also benefit humanity. What we eat and how we produce our food is a significant issue in curbing climate change.”

Researcher of plant-based protein

Jiang is working for a better tomorrow by studying broad beans and fava beans and developing new products based on them.

“I’m happy to contribute to increasing the share of plant-based protein in our diet. I want to produce nutritious, tasty and sustainable food.”

Jiang has succeeded in his goal. He is one of the developers of the popular Finnish product, pulled oats, and a founding member of Gold&Green Foods Ltd together with the originator of the idea Maija Itkonen and researcher Reetta Kivelä.

However, vegetarian food in itself is no guarantee of environmental friendliness, Jiang points out.

“Glass noodles popular in Asia are a grim example of how at its worst a product can be both nutritionally poor and pollute the natural environment. The protein is washed away from the noodles which releases it to the natural environment to eutrophicate water systems.”

In Jiang’s opinion, the entire food production process and technology must be studied and looked at with fresh eyes.

“This kind of wide-ranging thinking is a great trend in food science at the University of Helsinki. For example, my dissertation supervisor, Tuula Sontag-Strohm, is very good at understanding the big picture.”

Finland and entrepreneurship

Jiang first came to Finland as an exchange student in 2008, and has never really left.

After his exchange year, he was accepted as Reetta Kivelä’s research assistant, finished his master’s degree and, if all goes to plan, will defend his doctoral dissertation this year on issues related to the taste and structure of broad beans.

“I have never applied to any other university. I’m lucky and grateful to have had a chance to study and acquire my professional skills here of all places.“

“The University of Helsinki has great teachers and supervisors, and I’ve had the chance to be part of fantastic research groups. It doesn’t surprise me that food science at the University of Helsinki has been ranked among the best in the world.”

Jiang’s full-time occupation as the chief scientist at Gold&Green Foods, which he joined in 2015, continues with many new products in the pipeline. Jiang likes living in Finland.

“Finland is a nice and peaceful country. It is easy to concentrate on research. Through my studies, I also found my Chinese-born wife, who also likes it here and has found a nice job, so we have settled here really successfully.”