6th Squishy Physics Saturday

Bringing physics to the public through food and the process of cooking

6th Squishy Physics Saturday
Gelation, Sous-Vide, and Caramelization
  March 4, 2017
10:00am-12:00 noon
Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons


The 6th Squishy Physics Saturday will discuss Gelation, Sous-Vide, and Caramelization. Lectures and demonstrations will be carried out by Helluva Engineer and Chef Tim Ma, and  by Pia Sörensen, Preceptor of Food Science at Harvard University.

Gelation is everywhere in cooking. It is the process by which a small amount of chain-like molecules, which we call polymers, become a network that is solid-like, despite much of the material is still a liquid. For example, 2 teaspoons (7 g) of gelatin is enough to completely solidify 2 cups (450 g) of water! Everytime you cook and egg, thicken a sauce with a starch, or even just use some jam, you are taking advantage of some sort of polymer gelation.

If gelation is part of the science of texture, then caramelization is part of the science of flavor. Take some sugar molecules, heat them up, and watch as the sugar breaks down and then recombines in hundreds and thousands of different ways. From a single type of molecule that only tastes “sweet”, caramelization results in the “nutty”, “rum-like”, or even “toasted” flavors that we all know and love.

You can watch the 6th Squishy Physics Saturday here!

 Our Speakers

Chef Tim Ma and Preceptor Pia Sörensen will discuse and demonstrate the science behind gelation, sous vide, and caramelization and its use in modern cuisine!


Tim Ma risked it all 9 years ago by leaving behind a career in engineering.  A successful engineering career that begin in Atlanta, on the beautiful campus of Georgia Tech.  Tim graduated from Georgia Tech and worked as an electrical engineer for government contractors in the DC area for 8 years.  He attributes his success as a chef to his time at Georgia Tech and his time as an engineer.  The work ethic, the meticulous way of creating and inventing, the determination and curiosity of engineers to seek the how and the why have all played a big role in his culinary career.

In 2008, Tim along with his now wife Joey, quit their jobs, moved to New York City, where he enrolled in The French Culinary Institute now, The International Culinary Center. After completing his culinary program and an externship at a 2-Michelin Star Restaurant in NYC, they decided to move to St. Thomas, USVI. They lived in St. Thomas just long enough to figure out their next move which was to open their own restaurant back in Northern Virginia.

In 2009, Tim and Joey with the help of family and friends opened their first restaurant which they found on craigslist and funded solely on credit cards. The first year was not easy by any means but it taught them to persevere and push forward with their dream. Fast-forward to 2013, Tim and Joey opened Water & Wall, a neighborhood restaurant with modern american fare.  Tim had always wanted to open a craft sub shop and so together with his wife they opened Chase the Submarine in November 2015. 2016 brought a lot of excitement to the Tim Ma Restaurant group as Chef Tim opened his first DC restaurant concept in March: Kyirisan.  Kyirisan is a Chinese-French menu in a home like setting, it was recognized by the inaugural Michelin Guide as one of 19 Bib Gourmand restaurants. In the fall of 2016, Chef Tim Ma launched a culinary consulting extension of TMRG and in December, he began his first consulting project at Ten Tigers Parlour in DC.

Chef Tim Ma is also a proud father of 3: Charlotte 6, Chase 4 and Camden 2- all future “Yellow Jackets”.

pia-sorensenPia Sörensen
is Preceptor at the Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. She is a co-instructor of the General Education course Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science, and was the lead producer in its recent remodeling to Science & CookingX, an online version of the same course with 200,000 registered students. Sörensen’s research interests range from science and engineering education — with an emphasis on online education and creative ways of teaching science and engineering in a liberal arts setting — to chemical biology, the science of food, and the chemical and microbial processes of fermentation. She received a B.S. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in Chemical Biology from Harvard University.

Attendance is free and open to the public of all ages, with attendees ranging from University Professors and their families to local chefs to interested citizens.  The event has filled the seat venue (~350) in all three previous years.  In addition, all tickets are typically spoken for up to 2 weeks before the event

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For other questions and comments email: outreach@physics.gatech.edu