Amy Van Wey Lovatt

Post Doctoral Scientist - Mathematical Modeller



PhD, Massey University

MA in Mathematics, Oregon State University

BA in Mathematics, Willamette University


Massey University Dean’s List of Exceptional PhD Thesis
Earle Food Research Fellowship
Ford Family Foundation Scholarship
Rogue Community College Excellence in Mathematics


Van Wey, A. S., A. L. Cookson, et al. (2014). "Monoculture parameters successfully predict coculture growth kinetics of Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron and two Bifidobacterium strains." International Journal of Food Microbiology 191(17): 172-181.

                Microorganisms rarely live in isolation, but are most often found in a consortium. This provides the potential for cross-feeding and nutrient competition among the microbial species, which make it challenging to predict the growth kinetics in coculture. In this paper we developed a mathematical model to describe substrate consumption and subsequent microbial growth and metabolite production for bacteria grown in monoculture. The model characterized substrate utilization kinetics of 18 Bifidobacterium strains. Some bifidobacterial strains demonstrated preferential degradation of oligofructose in that sugars with low degree of polymerization (DP) (DP ≤ 3 or 4) were metabolized before sugars of higher DP, or vice versa. Thus, we expanded the model to describe the preferential degradation of oligofructose. In addition, we adapted the model to describe the competition between human colonic bacteria Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron LMG 11262 and Bifidobacterium longum LMG 11047 or Bifidobacterium breve Yakult for inulin as well as cross-feeding of breakdown products from the extracellular hydrolysis of inulin by B. thetaiotaomicron LMG 11262. We found that the coculture growth kinetics could be predicted based on the respective monoculture growth kinetics. Using growth kinetics from monoculture experiments to predict coculture dynamics will reduce the number of in vitro experiments required to parameterize multi-culture models.

Van Wey, A. S., A. L. Cookson, et al. (2014). "A mathematical model of the effect of pH and food matrix composition on fluid transport into foods: An application in gastric digestion and cheese brining." Food Research International 57: 34-43.

                The question of bioaccessibility of nutrients within a food matrix has become of increasing interest in the fields of nutrition and food science as bioaccessibility is the precursor to bioavailability. By analyzing the propagation of the wetting front of acidic water in raw carrot core and Edam cheese as model systems, we show that the diffusion of the acidic water is dependent on the pH of the gastric fluid and the food matrix. In addition, we demonstrate that the diffusion of NaCl during cheese brining is also dependent upon the concentration of the NaCl. This demonstrates that Fickian diffusion, along with a concentration dependent diffusion coefficient, is a valid model for describing concentration profiles in multiple food systems.Utilizing the diffusion rates found at various pH levels (1.50, 2.00, 3.50, 4.30, 5.25 and 7.00), we developed a model to describe the measured non-linear rate of soluble solid loss during digestion at various constant pH levels. Additionally, we have developed a model to predict the likely rate of soluble solid loss during digestion in the stomach where pH decreases with time. This model can be used to help understand and optimize the relationship between food structure/composition and food degradation in the human stomach, which may help in the development of novel foods with desired functionality. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Van Wey, A. S., A. L. Cookson, et al. (2012). "Anisotropic nutrient transport in three-dimensional single species bacterial biofilms." Biotechnology and Bioengineering 109(5): 1280-1292.

                The ability for a biofilm to grow and function is critically dependent on the nutrient availability, and this in turn is dependent on the structure of the biofilm. This relationship is therefore an important factor influencing biofilm maturation. Nutrient transport in bacterial biofilms is complex; however, mathematical models that describe the transport of particles within biofilms have made three simplifying assumptions: the effective diffusion coefficient (EDC) is constant, the EDC is that of water, and/or the EDC is isotropic. Using a Monte Carlo simulation, we determined the EDC, both parallel to and perpendicular to the substratum, within 131 real, single species, three-dimensional biofilms that were constructed from confocal laser scanning microscopy images. Our study showed that diffusion within bacterial biofilms was anisotropic and depth dependent. The heterogeneous distribution of bacteria varied between and within species, reducing the rate of diffusion of particles via steric hindrance. In biofilms with low porosity, the EDCs for nutrient transport perpendicular to the substratum were significantly lower than the EDCs for nutrient transport parallel to the substratum. Here, we propose a reaction-diffusion model to describe the nutrient concentration within a bacterial biofilm that accounts for the depth dependence of the EDC. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.