Position: Senior research scientist Field: Functional foods Organisation: Mood Food Team, Food Innovation – Food and Wellness Group, Plant & Food Research

Dr Arjan Scheepens moved from The Netherlands to New Zealand with his family as a child and grew up on Auckland’s North Shore. He attended Long Bay College and graduated from the University of Auckland with a first class honours degree in biochemistry and molecular biology.

He then completed a PhD in paediatric neuroscience at the University of Auckland. His research focused on designing treatment strategies for paediatric brain injury patients and related to the fields of brain plasticity, neurogenesis and neuroprotection.

Following a postdoctoral scholarship at Auckland, he spent 3 years at the Medical University of Maastricht in The Netherlands as a neuroscience postdoctoral fellow. He returned to Auckland University take up a medical school academic fellowship.

In 2006, Arjan joined HortResearch as a senior scientist involved in the development of functional foods. He now oversees the ‘mood food’ programme, which aims to design functional foods that impart benefits to brain wellness in regards to stress management, depression and the cognitive decline associated with normal ageing. HortResearch merged with Crop and Food Research in 2008 to form Plant & Food Research.

When you do make a breakthrough, you can really make a difference in people’s lives, be it through a new drug, treatment or a discovery that makes life easier, safer or just better.

His current research interests include the identification of novel psychoactive phytochemicals from commonly consumed food plants and the design of ‘intelligent synergies’ between phytochemical extracts in order to increase the bioavailability and bioactivity of their functional components.

Arjan enjoys his work as a scientist and says that one of the main things he enjoys about working is the level of freedom he has, from choosing what he does every day to choosing the field he’s working in and the people he wants to work with. “You also get the privilege to work with the smartest people in the country, which is very humbling and rewarding.”

This article is based on information current in 2011.

    Published 18 March 2011