Winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award - Prof. Élisabeth Dumoulin

May 02, 2019

Prof. Élisabeth Dumoulin received this award to recognize her achievements in food processing research and in developing international postgraduate programmes. In this article, she talks about experiences and influential people that shaped her career and the importance of educational exchanges.

Born in August 1944, my childhood was accompanied by World War stories, as I grew up in the French region Touraine that was located within the demarcation line (the limit between free and occupied territories) and my two grand-fathers died during the 1st World War.

During my peaceful life in the countryside, in a wine region, I learnt very soon everything about vegetables and fruits, hens and rabbits. For example, how to cook, sterilization, make jams, the winery process from grapes to alcohol, and the taste of fresh cow milk and goat cheese. These were my first important steps for later work in Food Process Engineering!!!!

My father was elected as a representative in the village, then later represented a group of villages. He didn’t focus on politics but concentrated on improving management, financing, schools, transport, and the development of the water network. Both my parents desired to know, meet, and help people in their life. My mother accomplished this in her work for the Red Cross. With other villages, they built town twinning partnerships that included the exchange of people from German and Italian villages.

At school, I met talented chemistry professors and I decided to become a Chemical Engineer. Six years of postgraduate studies were conducted in the French region of Alsace. For a woman in 1967, it was not easy to enter the chemical industry as an engineer! So, I prepared a PhD research project in Analytical Chemistry 'Dosage of oxygen in alkali metals, caesium and sodium', a topic of interest for nuclear plants. Thanks to Prof A. Hatterer, I learnt how to organize and conduct research, how to write reports and papers, and how to present and speak. Here I learnt my first job: Researcher.

In 1977-80, I had an opportunity to spend 3 years in Alger (Algeria) as a French teacher, teaching Inorganic Chemistry (production of cement, iron/steel) to students studying to become Engineers. I discovered how to teach and to work with colleagues at the Department of Chemical Engineering of the Alger Polytechnic School. My work included organizing plants visits for students, with colleagues. This was my second job: Teacher. I discovered with pleasure a new country and another way of life.

At the time, there was a lack of teachers at different education levels from primary school to university in Algeria. The French government (Foreign Affairs Ministry) and other countries sent people called Cooperants (with contracts). So, I had the opportunity to meet colleagues from Romania and Russia, who had learnt French to be able to teach in Algeria.

Assistant Professor
Then in 1980, I was accepted as an Assistant Professor to teach Energetics/Thermodynamics at the School of Food Engineers (a 3-year study to become a Food Engineer) at ENSIA in Massy near Paris. From 1987 till 1994, I was Head of Food Process Engineering Department and I became Professor in 1995. Since 2007 ENSIA is part of AgroParisTech Institute.

There I discovered Food Process Engineering and the Food Industry little by little with the help and knowledge of my colleagues. Including Prof Loncin, author of books on Process Engineering published in different languages, who had contacts in Belgium and Germany and also Prof J.J. Bimbenet, A. Duquenoy, G. Trystram and many others.

At this School, all the teachers had a research topic/work, usually conducted with PhD and Master students, in collaboration with industry. My research focussed on drying processes (spray and fluid bed) and control of products (powders production, coating and encapsulation).

The PhD students were often foreigners with grants from Mexico, Brazil, Africa, China. We also received professors for a sabbatical year from countries such as from Morocco, Israel, and Ireland. These were great opportunities to develop research partnerships and friendships, e.g. working with Prof Zeki Berk from Technion (Israel) on powders.

During their studies at ENSIA, students were able to work and practice on various unit operations in a pilot plant. This pilot plant was also used for industry trials, which was a good opportunity to make new contacts. Students had two training periods in industry (3-6 months) which presented opportunities for teachers to visit them, meet industry people and visit plants. I gained an understanding of how serious and competent the food industry must be to answer the needs of consumers!

Of course, the research results were presented at congresses either in France or anywhere in the world (e.g. ICEF, EFFoST and IUFoST).  These were welcome opportunities to travel, to meet other teams, and to use other languages. All these contacts were the bases for a powerful network around the world with all food universities, facilitated by the new development of the Internet/informatics.

Facilitating student exchanges
In 1988, it was ERASMUS and the important positive role of Brussels that determined the direction of my career. Prof Augusto Medina from Porto (Pt) had contacts with Brussels, food industry people and the European Federation of Chemical Engineering: he had the vision to build a European Network of Food Universities and to initiate and organize exchanges inside this network. The first meeting was held in Porto, in January 88. I was invited with three other people, representing five countries (Be, It, UK, Fr, Pt), to launch this initiative. In 1996, it had grown to a network of 70 partners in Europe (several per country). Partners representatives played an important role, they believed strongly in the need to exchange students, teachers, experiences in teaching and to write common books. The role of representatives was essential!!

From 1988 to 1992, student exchanges began between universities which knew each other mainly through research. From Massy the first student who received an Erasmus grant spent 9 months of his studies (courses, exams, marks) in Cork, Ireland (1988). This stay had to be recognized as a part of his studies – but recognition was not obvious for some of my colleagues!!

Then with the transformation of Eastern Europe, we built European Tempus projects (1992-97, with Pl, Ro, Cz, Hu, Bg, Ru); COMETT project (1992, with enterprises), Leonardo project (1995), with numerous exchanges and meetings. It was my role and more generally the important role of all the partner representatives to meet and select student candidates for exchanges and to give them advice at any moment!

In 1992, A. Medina had the idea of a European master’s degree (EMFS) that would include study periods at five different universities (Wageningen, Reading, Massy, Lund, Cork), supported by European finances and the active participation of five international food companies for 6-month internship placements. It began in 1995 and still exists in 2019 with four universities, Wageningen, Massy, Lund, Cork, and about 20 international students involved per year. This added up to 244 alumni working in the food industry in 2016.

Coordinator of FOODNET
In 1998, following the footsteps of A. Medina, I became the coordinator of the SOCRATES Thematic Network FOODNET for three years. This network, financed by Brussels, consisted of 86 partners, including 58 universities from 27 countries (24 languages) and 28 companies, research centres, professional associations and services. Meetings were organized regularly in different countries (3 times a year). These were valuable opportunities to meet during several days to discuss, get to know each other and discover other equipment/organizations. The primary objectives were to better know and understand each other through working groups on curricula, continuing education, PhD studies, assessment of studies (ECTS), personal skills development, and language studies. Of course, we continued students and staff exchanges. We also developed a «Food Atlantic» network (1998-2001) between Europe (10 university partners) and Canada (6 university partners) with student exchanges (42 Eu->Ca; 40 Ca->Eu) and also meetings to exchange on teaching and write common books.

After 2001, the network became more and more an International Network, with a new coordinator Cristina Silva (ESB, Porto). In 2015, it was renamed ISEKI - Integrating Food Science & Engineering Knowledge into the Food Chain. An International e-Journal was created 'International Journal of Food Studies'. I was the representative of ENSIA in this network till 2012.

Other cooperation projects
Besides these big networks, additional specific projects were developed between ENSIA and some universities: e.g. a Double Diploma (1998-2011) between ENSIA and Munich University; an ALFA European project for PhD exchanges (Europe-South America, 2002/05) was developed by Reading Univ. And it was usual to invite foreign professors in Jury of PhD students or to be invited to other countries.

In research, I participated in Flair, Copernicus EUROPEAN projects; and European Marie Curie research project on powders, which was very well organized by John Fitzpatrick (UCC, Ie) and Lilia Ahrne (SIK, Sw)! Thanks to them, it was a very rich and fruitful experience with industries, universities, PhD students, at a European level. My colleague Christelle joined the team and these projects in 2000, allowing her to develop her competences. Our friendship was very important and still is after my retirement in 2012.

And now in 2019, the International Association ISEKI Food is still managed by an efficient team that develops activities online (courses, information, exchanges, books, jobs, many projects) and organises an International Conference every two years. 


In conclusion
In my work life, I discovered many great things mainly because of powerful friendships, the help of colleagues around the world, who had great scientific knowledge, a strong desire to share rich human experiences both in research and teaching, and had a desire to help students from abroad in their professional life. I do not forget my daughter and her family who added stars to my everyday life.

This large world network of people and friends working in food universities (teaching, research) is a Reality! It represents a powerful tool to develop Education via exchanges of students, of teachers, of experiences in teaching/continuing education. The future for this network is to work hard to define and use the best ways to create and reinforce a true collaboration between food research, food industries, food organizations and producers of food materials, to contribute efficiently to answer the problems of food needs specific to each region (e.g. in Africa, America, Asia, Europe).

Thank you very much to EFFoST for giving me this opportunity to thank the numerous people who made my life so exciting! I hope they also found this long walk together in the Food Universe stopping along the way in countries all over the world positive!