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he kitchen and the science lab become one in Dr. Amy
Rowat's class. The University of California, Los Angeles
(UCLA) professor is using food to illustrate the com-
plex mechanics and physiology of biological materials. And it is
working well, with an impressive career in world-class research,
a multitude of publications, and a line up of executive chefs and
farmers waiting to be guest presenters in her classes.
"Our research aims to understand what makes cells `squishy' or
stiff. To do this, we build devices that can measure cell stiffness
at very high rates, using teeny sensors to probe how the nucleus
inside of the cell deforms. Using these physical properties, we
can make and contribute to biomedically-relevant discoveries
like finding new anti-cancer drugs. This work has huge potential
to change the way we think about biology and could have a
profound biomedical impact," says Rowat. "I brought food into
the mix, as everything we eat is essentially made up of cells and
it's something we all know and love. It's been a wonderful
addition to my teaching, and has also changed the way I think
about my research."
Featured in
The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher
Education for her culinary endeavours in the classroom when she
was a post-doctoral candidate at Harvard University, Rowat is
continuing her teaching using food at UCLA. She is launching a
new course called "Science and Food: The Molecular and Physical
Origins of What We Eat." Topics include physiology of taste;
and why lettuce is crispy: examining the concepts and roles of force
and pressure in plants and food texture.
Rowat's career in science began at Mount Allison but she also
earned an arts degree in Asian literatures in addition to her
physics degree, an experience she says has helped her greatly
in her career and current job at UCLA. "That was a complete
accident but one that worked so well. While studying science,
I also discovered my love of literature and religious studies.
This has helped me greatly throughout my career. As a scientist,
it's essential that you can also explain your work in a clear way.
I appreciate the foundation I received at Mount Allison more
and more as a professor."
Cooking is not just part of a day's work for Rowat. not surpris-
ingly, she is also a wonderful cook. "I love to cook. It's been a big
part of my life since a very young age. I remember spending lots
of time in the kitchen with my mother and grandfather learning
the basics. I tend to try new dishes and have rotating `favourites'
depending on where I am. In Denmark, where I completed my
master's and PhD, I was able to try various species of fish. Here
in Los Angeles I am amazed at the different varieties of citrus
and avocados available. I love to bake, especially pies. Being able
to tie this into my work life, learning the physics behind what
makes a flaky pie crust, is a bonus."
by Laura Dillman Ripley
featuRe stORy
Amy Rowat's pizza with ricotta,
proscuitto, grilled peaches,
and rucola
This pizza has a perfect complement
of flavours -- salty, bitter, and sweet.
It is also rich with scientific con
cepts, from the bread dough's gluten
protein network to the
caramelized peaches.
Pizza dough
(homemade or store-bought)
Thinly-sliced proscuitto
Homemade ricotta cheese
Olive oil
Freshly-ground pepper
Grill the peaches: Peel, remove pit, and
slice into medium-thick slices, about
cm thick. Place them on a hot
grill. If you don't have ready
access to a grill, place the peaches in
a cast-iron pan over high heat. Cook
for about a minute or two while they
sear, then flip and repeat on the other
side. The aim is to achieve nicely
browned (caramelized) peaches.
Heat your oven to the highest pos
sible temperature. Form pizza dough
onto baking sheet, stretching it to
achieve a thin crust. Brush the crust
liberally with olive oil. Place the grilled
peaches, thin slices of proscuitto,
and small mounds of ricotta cheese
evenly around the pizza. Bake for 10-
15 minutes or until the edges of the
crust are crispy brown. Remove from
oven and place fresh rucola on top.
Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with
pepper, and enjoy.
For more of Amy Rowat's original recipes visit: