Know your colleague: Bent Egberg Mikkelsen

Last modified: 30.05.2016

TALK ABOUT YOUR WORK

My work concentrates on what is known as public health nutrition. My focus is mainly on the food we eat in the public sphere and that is offered as part of the public welfare system. That is to say, the food that is consumed in nursing homes or served in home care and the food offered in hospitals, kindergartens and schools. We're looking at what parameters you can adjust in order to ensure that food is consumed in the right quantities and that the right food is consumed.

Physically I’m based at Aalborg University Copenhagen at Sydhavnen where we have a large master’s program called Integrated Food Studies. We have 50 students per year whose project work with schools and children's institutions in the vicinity looks at ways of creating health through the food served and consumed there.

Similarly, I work closely with the Center for Nutrition and Bowel Disease at Aalborg University Hospital where we are looking at what we can do in terms of nutrition to improve patients’ health status. Finally, we partner with the North Jutland municipalities on developing the municipal food offerings for senior citizens.

WHAT ARE YOU OCCUPIED WITH RIGHT NOW?

We’ve established a lab here at Sydhavnen called the FoodScape Lab where we study what it means to design meals and food-service architecture in a certain way. Currently, we’re working on various initiatives under the heading "Small Things, Big Data" where we use modern ICT-based measurement methods to learn more about whether our health-promoting architectural choices work in the cafeteria and whether we can nudge people to the healthy choices.

In one of our current projects, DIMS (Dietary Intake Monitoring System), we’ve developed a device that uses image recognition, algorithms and weight to record people's food intake in order to give us information about who eats what, in what amounts, and when. We have used this at Aalborg University Hospital to register food waste and to study patients' intake of food.

The DIMS device consists of a digital camera, a weight, an infrared thermometer and an RFID reader that can identify the food on the plate, for example, what is meat and what is sauce. The camera and the weight calculate the amount of food on the patient's plate, and this data is used to determine the choice of food, how much you've eaten and how much food is thrown out.

In this area we're probably among the most advanced research groups in the world. The classic way to gather this kind of data is by asking people, but that carries a number of uncertainties as there is always some under- or overreporting according to what is socially acceptable. Our dream is to be able to say what people eat without having to ask them.

So we also work closely with researchers from other areas at Aalborg University, and this interdisciplinary approach where we combine technology with widely different data sets — such as health status, the geography of food offerings, and genetic data on health — makes us better able to identify who it makes sense to concentrate our efforts on when it comes to diet.

WHAT’S A GOOD DAY AT WORK FOR YOU?

I travel quite a bit and that makes for two types of work days. But a good day on campus is when I’m supervising my PhD students and the students in Integrated Food Studies. This is very rewarding for me.

A good work day is also of course when a message from a journal shows up in my mailbox that my manuscript has been accepted. And a good day is also when you find out you’ve received funding for a new and exciting research project.

Finally, a good work day is also when the sun is shining and the birds are singing – and my bike doesn’t get a flat tire! I bike to work every day and since I live in Allerød, north of Copenhagen, it’s a trip of 30 kilometers each way.

TALK A BIT ABOUT THE MAN BEHIND THE RESEARCH

I’m the father of two boys living at home where one will soon be moving out. My girlfriend lives in Sweden so I have only a little time to take care of the old villa I live in. And even though I probably get enough exercise biking between Allerød and Copenhagen, I also enjoy inline speed skating. I really like being in the great outdoors, so I like to vacation at a small family mountain cabin I have in Norway.


Name: Bent Egberg Mikkelsen
Age: 61
Position: Professor in Nutrition and Public Food
Department: Department of Clinical Medicine

 

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