School of Biosciences

Image of David Gray

David Gray

Associate Professor in Food Lipid Chemistry, Faculty of Science


  • workRoom A29 Food Sciences
    Sutton Bonington Campus
    Sutton Bonington
    LE12 5RD
  • work0115 951 6147


Dr. David Gray

Associate Professor in Food Lipid Chemistry

Lipids are required in the human diet; these include fat-soluble vitamins (e.g. vitamin A and E), and essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6). I am interested in novel, bio-innovative approaches of incorporating lipids into the diet to improve health, and to reduce the impact on the environment.

Current Research Interests

  • Biomaterials approach to sustainable ingredients for food and feed
  • Alternative sources of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Characterising the functional and nutritional properties of oil bodies (oleosomes) and chloroplasts ex-vivo
  • Digestive fate of plant-derived multicomponent membranes
  • Galactolipid digestion in humans
  • Novel, sustainable processing of oilseeds without organic solvents


  • Keil School Scotland (1978-1984)
  • University of Aberdeen (1984-1988) 2.1 Hons Biochemistry
  • University of Birmingham (1988-1992) PhD Plant Lipid Biochemistry
  • University of Nottingham (1993- ) School of Biosciences, Division of Food, Nutrition and Dietetics


Live with my wife Karen (three sons, Joshua, Alex and Cameron now flown the nest). Involved in a local church and co-lead a student group. I wait patiently (still!) for a revival in Scottish rugby and enjoy the occasional game of golf.

Expertise Summary

  • Extracting and measuring food-based lipids such as: triacylglyecerols; essential fatty acids; tocopherol; carotenoids;
  • Physico-chemical characterisation of oil bodies and chloroplasts recovered from a range of plant material
  • Oxidative stability of oil/lipid material
  • In-vitro digestion of plant-based organelles

Teaching Summary

A desire for shaping coherent courses, with a clear trajectory of content flow, and of concept development, has driven Dr. Gray to be proactive in developing food-related degree programmes and… read more

Research Summary

At the heart of Dr. Gray's research activity is a biomaterials approach to sustainable nutrition and ingredients. He has developed methods to isolate/recover lipid-rich organelles from plant material… read more

Recent Publications

A desire for shaping coherent courses, with a clear trajectory of content flow, and of concept development, has driven Dr. Gray to be proactive in developing food-related degree programmes and courses at the University of Nottingham. In 2001, Dr. Gray championed the development of a new undergraduate course 'Food Science and Nutrition'. In addition to teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels Dr. Gray has been instrumental in regularly leading colleagues to collectively improve the structure and content of the 'Food Science' and related Honours degree courses.

Fostering an inclusive, collaborative, supportive culture within my classes is something Dr. Gray strives to achieve; he believes we are made for relationships and community; it is where we thrive. This paradigm shapes his teaching style and his inclination to arrange occasional social activities to help the students to make connections with each other. Several factors influence his choice of teaching methods; at the most fundamental level Dr. Gray's approach is to highlight key facts and principles that will equip students with an ability to think through problems and to innovate. Students are encouraged to exercise their ability to identify unifying principles by forming connections between different modules/disciplines.

Dr. Gray is also interested in embedding research into the curriculum. He designed a new module called 'Trends in Food and Nutrition Research' which has been refined since its launch in the academic year of 2013-2014. Currently it runs in the autumn of the final year, offering students an opportunity to find out about our research before they chose their final year research project title, and to train them in the research skills they will need to carry out this work.

Dr. Gray has overseen the implementation of more active learning for students. One approach to active learning is Problem-Based Learning (PBL) 'the learning which results from the process of working towards the understanding of, or resolution of, a problem' - it is not just 'solving problems'. 'Active learning which is stimulated by and focussed around a clinical, community or scientific problem.' (Davis and Harden, 1999). The most powerful learning comes when a student is dealing with uncertainty. Students need to acquire the process skills, not just 'content', therefore they all have to participate. Dr. Gray was inspired by witnessing the PBL-centric teaching practice in the Vet School, and along with Emma Weston created a PBL module. 'Food -Technical Team Challenges' is a second year 20 credit module delivered entirely through PBL. Students develop skills in diagnosing and solving challenges/problems relating to the development, manufacture, distribution and/or storage of food products. Students in groups are presented with a challenge/problem, they then gather relevant information, synthesise an argument, and make recommendations to the company executive board. Each student is given a role within the group, such as chair or scribe, and these roles are rotated at the start of a new problem.

Dr. David Gray - Course Director 'Food Science and Nutrition'

Undergraduate Courses (Modules)

  • Food Material and Ingredients BIOS101
  • International Food Commodities BIOS1024
  • Processing and Sensory Evaluation of Food BIOS2025
  • Food-Technical Team Challenges BIOS2012
  • Trends in Food and Nutrition Research BIOS3048
  • Undergraduate Research Projects BIOS3040

Postgraduate Courses (Modules)

  • Core Skills and Technologies of Food Manufacture
  • Food Manufacturing Case Studies

Current Research

At the heart of Dr. Gray's research activity is a biomaterials approach to sustainable nutrition and ingredients. He has developed methods to isolate/recover lipid-rich organelles from plant material as functional ingredients for food or feed. This area of work not only has potential impact (social/health/developing world, and commercial benefits), it is of fundamental scientific interest.

Oleosomes (oil bodies) act as an energy store when oilseeds germinate. Their microstructure is lost during conventional oil extraction using organic solvents or high pressure crushing. Intact oleosomes can be recovered from oilseeds; ex-vivo (removed/isolated from their cellular environment) oleosomes disperse in water to form stable emulsions. Dr. Gray's research group probes the physico-chemical nature of these micron-sized lipid droplets. For example, they carry oil rich in essential fatty acids and lipophilic micronutrients, and the natural amphiphilic coat that surrounds the oil protects it against oxidation. Dr. Gray and his research group are also interested in how we digest these natural lipid droplets compared with processed emulsions.

Chloroplasts are organelles, ubiquitous in the biosphere, which convert sunlight energy into chemical energy. Dr. Gray's group has demonstrated that most of the nutrients in green plant material are concentrated in the chloroplast: omega-3 fatty acids; β-carotene (pro-vitamin A); lutein; tocopherol (vitamin E); phylloquinone (vitamin k1); ascorbic acid (vitamin C); iron; and manganese. Waste/underutilised green biomass is therefore an untapped source of this cocktail of nutrients which can be 'extracted' by simply removing chloroplasts. Dr. Gray has developed a physical process to isolate/recover intact chloroplasts on a large scale. Such liberated and concentrated chloroplasts deliver more nutrients to the consumer than cell-bound chloroplasts since their digestion is not impeded by the cell wall. Dr. Gray is also investigating the role of chloroplast microstructure in the release of nutrients during digestion (bioaccessibility).

Sources of funding for this work include: BBSRC. EPSRC, Defra, Charitable Trusts, and Industry

Examples of external academic collaborators include: CNRS Marseille, France; University of Wageningen (Netherlands); University of Massachusetts (USA); Rothamsted Research International; University of York; University of Loughborough; Quadram Institute, Norwich; Kings College London; University of Manchester; University of Bath.

School of Biosciences

University of Nottingham
Sutton Bonington Campus
Nr Loughborough
LE12 5RD, UK

For all enquiries please visit:

Find us
Campus map
Room Locations on Campus [pdf file]