Friday, July 10, 2020

Partnership will bring industry experience to African agro-processors

Katherine Gaffney                                                                      For Immediate Release 7/10/2020

Partnership will bring industry experience to African agro-processors
Urbana, IL

The Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL), the American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS), and the USAID-funded Southern Africa Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) have partnered to provide support to agro-processors in Southern Africa. The F2F program provides technical support to farmers and agribusinesses in developing countries to promote sustainable advancement in food security and agro-processing. By leveraging the expertise of volunteers from US-based agricultural organizations, F2F is able to respond to the local needs of host-country farmers, agribusinesses, and other agricultural organizations and improve agricultural sector productivity and profitability.

“We are really excited about the partnership with SIL and CNFA in support of the F2F program,” said Patrick Donnelly, CEO of AOCS. “Together, our organizations bring all of the pieces necessary to advance the science and technology in the oilseed processing sector in developing countries.”
The CNFA-implemented F2F program, currently active in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Moldova, posts mid-to senior-level U.S. volunteers to farmer groups, agribusinesses and other agriculture sector institutions for two- to four-week, in-person assignments. It is the goal of SIL and CNFA to present AOCS members with opportunities to volunteer their technical support and expertise to agro-processing leaders and professionals in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). In addition to exhibiting at the recent AOCS virtual annual meeting, the three organizations plan to host a webinar to educate AOCS members about the F2F program and volunteer experience. Given the current travel restrictions in place due to COVID-19 risks, AOCS members may volunteer their expertise and mentorship virtually. Educating AOCS members on the specific needs of SSA agro-processors and thoughtfully matching them where their areas of interest and expertise will be best utilized will be critical to the success of this collaboration.

Many agro-processors in SSA lack ready access to the research, development, implementation science expertise, state-of-the-art equipment, and skilled labor available in the U.S. and Europe. As demand for soy products continues to increase across the African continent, SIL and CNFA recognize the need to connect SSA soy processors with US-based industry experts to generate sustainable, broad-based economic growth across the agricultural value chain.

The U.S. Agency for International Development administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide.

About Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA)
CNFA is an international agricultural development organization that specializes in the design and implementation of sustainable, enterprise-based agricultural initiatives. We work with businesses, foundations, governments, and communities to build customized local and global partnerships that meet the world’s growing demand for food. Since our inception in 1985, we have designed and implemented enterprise-based, agricultural development initiatives to facilitate market access, enhance agribusiness competitiveness, increase productivity, and improve access to inputs and financing in 46 countries around the world.

About Soybean Innovation Lab
The Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) works to improve food security and nutrition around the world. SIL is a team of technical soybean experts that provide evidence-based innovations, tools, and technologies across the value chain to enable sustainable livelihoods through profitable soybean production and utilization across Sub-Saharan Africa.

About the American Oil Chemist’s Society (AOCS)
Founded in 1909, AOCS is an international scientific society dedicated to advancing the science and technology of oils, fats, proteins, surfactants and related materials, enriching the lives of people everywhere. The members of AOCS include the leading experts in oilseed processing around the world.

CONTACT: Katherine Gaffney | AOCS Communication Specialist |

Stephen S. Chang Award Winner Feature – Dharma Kodali

Q&A with Dharma Kodali, winner of the Stephen S. Chang award

A brief bio: Dr. Dharma R. Kodali is a world-recognized expert in lipids and new product development and has 40 years of research experience in academia and industry. He is currently an Adjunct Professor in Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Minnesota.  Previously he was a professor at University of Minnesota and Boston University studying the fundamental aspects of structurally defined lipids synthesis, molecular packing, properties and their influence on metabolism and development of value-added products. His industrial experience includes working as a scientist and R&D Manager at Cargill and as a Senior Principal Scientist at General Mills, developing several new products from concept to commercialization. Still his primary areas of research continue to be developing value added products from fats and oils and agricultural materials for food and industrial applications.

Dr. Kodali authored or co-authored over 75 publications and book chapters and edited two books on trans fats. He is an inventor/co-inventor on 30 patents. His accomplishments include Cargill's Chairman's Innovation Award (2001), the American Chemical Society's Industrial Innovation Award (2002) and the American Oil Chemists Society's T.L. Mounts Award (2003) and Alton E. Bailey award (2017). He is an elected Fellow of American Institute of Chemists (2004) and an AOCS Fellow (2010). He has served in the American Oil Chemists Society in various capacities, including Chair, Industrial Oil Products Division; teaching short courses; as Associate Editor and peer reviewer of JAOCS; as Session Chair at National meetings and a member of Books and Publications committee and Recognition Program committee.

1) How did it feel to win the Stephen S. Chang Award?

I was very happy when I learned about winning the Stephen S. Chang Award. Professor Chang was a prolific inventor and educator.  He worked in both industry and academia and instituted this award to recognize scientists who have made significant and distinguished accomplishments.

I am particularly delighted to receive this award as my professional experience resembles that of Professor Chang, who immigrated from China and made numerous contributions to  lipids research in both fundamental understanding and the development of products. I am truly honored and delighted that my research contributions have been recognized as unique and valuable and that I join other accomplished and prominent lipid scientists who have won this award. I would like to thank Professor Marangoni and other colleagues who nominated and supported me for this award. I also felt grateful for my mentors, research associates and collaborators who made this possible. In particular, I wanted to dedicate the Chang award presentation to be given at the 2021 AOCS annual meeting to my mentor, colleague, and friend Professor Donald M. Small, who died recently.  

2) Tell us about your research career. How did you get started in the field that you are studying or working in?

My involvement in the research area of lipids happened serendipitously. Let me explain the twists and turns my research career has taken over the years. I earned a Ph.D. in synthetic medicinal chemistry from Kurukshetra University, India. My doctoral studies were on synthesis of heterocyclic compounds as anti-inflammatory agents. After obtaining Ph.D. I did one year of post-doctoral fellowship with Professor Jack Emert at New York Polytechnic University. The postdoctoral studies involved  synthesizing fluorescent probes to investigate the microenvironment of micelles, bilayers and cyclodextrins. I joined the Biophysics Department at Boston University, first as a staff scientist and then as Assistant Professor of Biophysics and worked for ten years with two eminent medical doctors and Professors Trevor Redgrave and Donald Small. 

During that time, I did extensive studies on the synthesis and physical properties of stereospecific designer lipids and their influence on metabolism. The studies on molecular packing and inter molecular interactions of pure lipids and lipid systems provided insight into the molecular structure/property/functionality relationship of lipids in general and fats and oils (triacylglycerols, TAG) in particular. I also investigated lipid molecular interactions through Raman and infrared spectroscopy in collaboration with MIT and Biorad Corporation. While I enjoyed the investigation of fundamental aspects of lipids, the practical applications of this knowledge to create new applications of value that are useful in daily life always interested me – this led me to seek a research position in industry. 

My industry experience started with Cargill Inc. and I spent 13 years in their corporate research as a principal scientist and research manager. During this time, I initiated and championed a lipids research program for industrial applications and focused on the development of value-added new products from agricultural raw materials, mainly from fats and oils. This initiative resulted in several commercialized products, numerous patents and the creation of a new business for Cargill. I worked for General Mills as a corporate resource for developing trans-fat alternatives for a year. This work resulted in creating innovative trans-fat alternatives and intellectual property. 
For the past fifteen years, I have worked as a consultant to corporations in problem solving, new product development and the evaluation of technologies, products and processes. I provided consulting services to small and large corporations around the world (Cargill, Omega Protein, Fish & Richardson, Bayer AG, NuTek Salt, Solazyme, Wilmar, Nutriquest, Calyxt and others). 

I joined University of Minnesota as an Adjunct Professor in 2006 and became a Research Professor of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering (BBE) in 2010. At BBE, part of my time was spent on grant proposals to fund my scientific interests in the areas of developing new products through chemical modification of vegetable oils, and lignocellulosic materials. I also guide undergraduate and graduate students and provide lectures. The development of new bioplasticizers from vegetable oils to replace the petroleum derived plasticizers research program I initiated was funded continuously for fifteen years and resulted in three patents and a new line of bioplasticizers that are currently being considered for commercialization. 

In summary, more than 40 years of my research experience in both academia (25 years) and industry (15 years) was in a multidisciplinary team environment. This helped me to gain an extensive knowledge in all areas of lipids, such as synthesis, characterization, properties, oxidation, functionality, nutrition, molecular packing, chemical modification, and new product development for food and industrial applications. I retired from the University of Minnesota at the end of 2018 as a Research Professor and continue to be active in research and teaching activities as Adjunct Professor.

3) Can you tell us about your current research?

My primary research area of interest for the last 25 years has been and continues to be the development of new and value-added products from lipids and related biomaterials for food and industrial applications. 

4) What challenges have you overcome during your course of study or your career?

Some of the challenges that I faced during my career were first to establish myself as a researcher in academia and then making the successful transitions from academia to industry to consulting and academia. In these different roles, having core competencies and knowledge in the subject area could be similar but the nature of ideas for problem solving, value creation and communication is different.  In the early years of my career, I had to establish myself as an independent research investigator capable of generating new ideas and able to get research funding. While working at Boston University I had the opportunity and freedom to establish my own area of research to study the synthesis and physical chemistry of stereospecific lipids. The collaborative studies that I initiated with MIT, Biorad corporation and Hiroshima University led me to learn and apply new knowledge in lipids and helped me to get an independent grant to establish myself as a faculty member of Biophysics at Boston University.  

My long-time desire to work in an industrial setting to apply fundamental knowledge to practical applications led me to join Cargill Central Research. Working in industry requires the understanding of the economic impact of the ideas in solving the problems and creating value for the business becomes paramount. Some of the required traits for a successful industrial scientist lies in generating new ideas of value, quickly reduce them to practice and protect through intellectual property. I was able to navigate this challenge successfully in creating new products/processes that resulted in value added products, many of them patented and commercialized. 

The industrial applications research program I initiated and championed resulted in a separate business line and for that I was recognized with Cargill Chairman’s Innovation Award. The new opportunities created from the labelling and elimination of trans fats from food products led me to leave Cargill and join General Mills. The application of structure-property-functionality understanding of fats led me to provide solutions for the replacement of trans fats. 

Again, I had to face a big transition after leaving industry, I created a company and started consulting to various companies around the globe. Consulting required different communication skills and professional networking. While pursuing a successful consulting career, I established myself back in academia as a regular faculty at University of Minnesota. These transitions required a lot of groundwork, help from a network of colleagues and friends and new ideas and grant proposals to get funding.

In the past 40 years of my professional career, I have travelled extensively and given numerous presentations and plenary lectures nationally and internationally. I also had the opportunity to spend four months as visiting professor in Professor Kiyotaka Sato’s lab at Hiroshima University. I immensely benefitted from the travels and learned a lot from a professional network of colleagues and friends. Towards the end of my career I feel very satisfied and all the challenges I faced look pale compared to the great satisfaction I derived during this journey. 

5) What advice can you share on how you have achieved success thus far in your career, whether that be entering a graduate program or a lengthy career in a prestigious position?

My advice to the budding scientists based on my own experiences are as follows: whatever your core areas of competence, find work in interdisciplinary areas that enrich learning, create new challenges and opportunities, and broaden knowledge. When you get an idea of some innovative way of solving a problem or creating a new material that can have better properties or functionality, you need to think how this can be useful or create value to the greater public. By doing so your problem-solving skills and value creation thinking will become more practical and impactful. I would also advise younger scientists to collaborate with other researchers around the world. When you are young, you should take on more challenges. If you are too comfortable in your job, look for new challenges or even consider taking up a new job. 

Lastly, increase your professional networking - belong to a professional organization and attend the annual conferences to exchange ideas, learn about new research areas, and interact with peers. I have been a member of AOCS and ACS for more than forty years.  I benefit immensely from my association with AOCS. Initially, I presented research work at the AOCS national meetings, which led to meeting potential research collaborators and peers working in fats and oils, and the opportunity to discuss and learn from them and exchange scientific ideas. In my career these interactions led to research collaborations and many seminal research publications. Belonging to professional organizations and professional networking became a continuous thread throughout my career that helped me to keep the connectivity with the outside world and abreast with the developments.

6) How has AOCS helped develop your career?

I am a long-time member of AOCS:  40 years! During this time, I have immensely benefited from this association and it has become my home-base scientific organization. Initially, I started with presenting research work at the AOCS annual meetings that culminated in meeting research stalwarts and peers working in fats and oils, providing an opportunity to discuss and learn from them and exchange scientific ideas. This led to a number of research collaborations that contributed to many seminal research publications. The friendships that also developed from AOCS resulted in numerous national and international travels, presentations and consulting assignments. I seldom miss the AOCS annual meetings and participated in various activities and held responsible positions. Every year I look forward to the annual meeting to meet and learn from the presentations of eminent scientists, make new friendships and renew the old, exchange ideas and generate a self-created urgency to work on new ideas for the coming year. 

Check out the AOCS Awards video featuring him:

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Alton E. Bailey Award Feature – Dr. Tong (Toni) Wang

Q&A with Dr. Tong (Toni) Wang, winner of the Alton E. Bailey Award

A brief bio: Dr. Wang is a Professor at Univ of Tennessee working on fats and oils and oilseed processing. She enjoys working with students and seeing their success in classroom and laboratory. 

1) How did it feel to win the Alton E. Bailey Award?

I was very honored and appreciative of the recognition.

2) How did you get started in the field that you are studying or working in?

From the start of my PhD degree program at Iowa State University, I was supervised by my major professor Dr. Earl Hammond, who was a respected lipid chemist and brought many of his students to AOCS.

As one of his many great graduate students, we learned technical skills as well as the passion and joy for science and discovery. 

3) Can you tell us about your current research?

I have several projects ongoing now. I am using lipid chemistry principles to modify the structure of TAG and free fatty acids of vegetable oils to make them into functional coating materials for fruits and paper products. We are relating the targeted properties, such as antimicrobial and crystallization behavior, with the structure of lipid molecules. I am also fractionating egg yolk functional components for nanoemulsion formulation for nutritional and industrial applications. Another one my current projects focuses on recovering dairy phospholipids from the waste or relatively low-value streams. 

4) What challenges have you overcome during your course of study or your career?

Since the challenges have all become very positive learning and improvement opportunities, I cannot say any of those has had a negative impact on me or has presented any truly insurmountable challenges.

5) What advice can you share on how you have achieved success thus far in your career, whether that be entering a graduate program or a lengthy career in a prestigious position?

My advice is to find what you truly enjoy. If you are doing what you love, the work will not be just work or frustration at times, but it is part of you, and you are doing it for yourself. Another piece of advice is to find great mentors in school (as I did in Professors Larry Johnson and Pam White) and your scientific home such as AOCS (many mentors such as Gary List, and colleagues and friends). The support and the spirit you experience, and the skills and satisfaction you gain from serving the society every year will guide you in advancing yourself and your organization.

Check out the AOCS Awards video featuring her:

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

AOCS Corporate Member Spotlight Series - EP Minerals

Welcome to the next addition to our new series, “AOCS Corporate Member Spotlights”!

We’re choosing a different corporate member to feature to help us learn more about their company and what they do to improve the science and technology of oils, fats, surfactants, detergents and more!

This week, Sterling Bollman, the head of Advertising and Sponsorship Sales at AOCS, talked with Chris Mitchell, the Director of Filtration and Purification Sales of EP Engineered Clays. In this conversation, he learned about innovations EP Minerals has developed and what really sets them apart from their competitors. So, please enjoy our next installment in the Corporate Member Spotlight series and learn more about EP Engineered Clays.

Good morning Chris and thank you for talking with me about your company! Let’s start off with a broad question. What type of products and services does EP Engineered Clays provide? 

At EP Engineered Clays, we specialize in acid-activated bleaching clays for removal of color bodies, residual phosphatides, soaps, and metals removal from fats/oils.  We also have our Celatom line of diatomaceous earth used for pre-coating of filter leaves as well as for body feeding other adsorbents to maintain consistent filtrate flow while protecting filter leaf surfaces.

That sounds interesting! I know there are other companies out there that offer similar products. What would you say differentiates your company from other competitors in the same field? 

We begin with very high-quality mineral reserves as raw materials, followed by close attention consistent finished product specifications.  We pride ourselves on delivering to or above expectations with our supply chain logistics and on our deep application knowledge that is essential to provide leading world-class Technical Service support to our served customer base.

Fantastic. With such an emphasis on the knowledge of application of the clay, you are sure to have some interesting innovations in this area. What is an innovation that you are most proud of at your company?

We recently revamped our Bleaching Clay line to the new CelaClear grades, with the specific goal of improving filtration performance while maintaining superior bleaching chemistry characteristics.

That certainly sounds like something that puts your company at the top of its field! This year has been all about adapting to new business practices. How has the COVID19 situation affected EP Engineered Clays?

Our colleagues, through all functional areas, have adapted to local health safety requirements, many working from home, while continuing to serve customers seamlessly.  Through deliberate planning, we have been able to maintain a high degree of plant up-time to satisfy continued customer demand while maintaining rigorous focus on worker safety.

In keeping with this idea, what do you foresee being the biggest challenges to EP Engineered Clays in the next year? 

While not relegated specifically to the coming year, we are constantly challenged by the introduction of new, alternate technologies requiring adaptation to continue delivering solid, valuable solutions to our customer partners.

Well Chris, thank you for sitting down with me and helping us learn more about EP Engineered Clays. One more question before I let you go though. Why is being a corporate member of AOCS important to you and your company?

AOCS provides a vital forum and platform to maintain close ties with industry colleagues of all levels, and functional areas. We are incredibly grateful for that and look to continue the partnership in the future. 

Thanks again for reading and thanks to Chris Mitchell and his colleagues at EP Engineered Clays for taking part in our AOCS Corporate Member Spotlight Series. Make sure to visit their website, follow them on Twitter, connect with them on LinkedIn and check out their blog! Join us next time to see who we feature next!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Memorial and Recognition of Ashok Patel, winner of the 2020 Timothy L. Mounts Award

AOCS was heartbroken to hear the news of Dr. Ashok Patel’s passing. Ashok was a member of the Society and its India Section. He had recently been invited to serve as a JAOCS Associate Editor and also served as session chair for a few AOCS annual meetings. His presence in the AOCS community and at AOCS meetings will be missed.

AOCS still wanted to recognize his accomplishments as a winner of the Edible Applications Technology Division’s 2020 Timothy L. Mounts Award, which recognizes research related to the science and technology of edible oils or derivatives in food products.

To help memorialize Ashok, we reached out to a few people who knew him well:

From Professor Alejandro G. Marangoni, University of Guelph

Prof. Patel was a unique individual. I had the pleasure to work with him on several recent projects related to the crystallization of lipids and fat mimetics. Ashok was an incredibly gifted researcher, combining a natural raw talent for research with limitless energy and a cheery and positive attitude. Everyone who met him could notice his energy, enthusiasm and keen mind. My exchanges with him were always fun, productive and energizing. I was looking forward to continuing to work with him in the years to come, but this tragedy has cut this short. Only 37, he had already made major contributions to the field of food colloids, fat mimetics and food materials science. His death is a major loss to the scientific community. He was also very popular among graduate students everywhere he went. He was an avid "Bollywood" aficionado – his dance sessions at the university and even when visiting research institutes abroad were legendary. He managed to make people of all races and walks of life join him in this fun style of dancing and expression. Asians, Europeans and North Americans joined him Bollywood dancing everywhere he went. This was the power of his enthusiasm for life. He will be sorely missed.

From Professor Lorenzo Pastrana, Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory

In many aspects, Ashok was an oxymoron himself: quiet and talkative, humble and brilliant, traditional and modern, light and strong. These contradictions made him a lovely person with an appealing and resilient personality. He only spent a short time at Iberian National Lab, less than we wanted, but he left us a deep fingerprint. Ashok was an outstanding and creative scientist and a better person. As a colleague, he was always willing to help, to smile at you to make easy, the rigorous experimental work. He was ambitious, trying to improve himself continuously –an excellent model for young PhD students. When he left INL, I foresaw for him a prosperous professional career, and he was accomplishing it. As in a Bollywood film, too early to say good-bye, dear Ashok.

From Professor Yoav D. Livney, Biotechnology & Food Engineering, Technion IIT

I met Ashok in April 2014  in Amsterdam where he led a wonderful Bollywood dance show at the Gala Dinner of the “Food Structure and Functionality Forum” conference. What an impression he left on me then. It was only a short while later when we met again in the CEFOOD conference (May 2014). It was in the picturesque city of Ohrid, Macedonia, where we got to know one another and became fast friends. 

Over the course of our friendship, I had the pleasure of writing a couple of letters of recommendation for his nomination to awards, and fondly remember being impressed by his soaring academic career and outstanding achievements.

Ashok is marked in memory by his typical enthusiasm, dedication and spark. This was no less true when, during the “Delivery of Functionality in Complex Food Systems” Conference (July 2019) in Porto, Portugal, Ashok was unanimously chosen by all of us in the steering committee, to lead the organization of the next DOF conference, to be hosted by the GTIIT. 

These memories made it so difficult to hear the shocking news of his tragic death. While bittersweet, I was very pleased to learn that AOCS had the chance to inform him of his selection to receive the 2020 AOCS Timothy L. Mounts Award.

May his memory be blessed!!

AOCS passes along our deepest condolences and will work to make Dr. Ashok Patel’s memory last in the context of the Society and beyond.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Young Scientist Research Award Feature – Dr. Bingcan Chen

Q&A with Dr. Bingcan Chen, winner of the Young Scientist Research Award

A brief bio: Bingcan Chen received his Ph.D. in 2012 from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  He is currently an Assistant Professor of Cereal and Food Chemistry at the North Dakota State University.  The primary goal of his research is to gain a better understanding of lipid oxidation mechanisms in foods and cereal products, and to provide an efficient means to improve food quality.  Bingcan has been very active in lipid oxidation research since he was graduate student.  His Ph.D. thesis focused on the impact of reverse micelles on bulk oil oxidation and the effectiveness of antioxidants.  

His current research focuses on lipid oxidation, novel antioxidants, specialty oil (hemp and CBD oils) from new and emerging crops, and flavor chemistry.  He has published more than 80 peer-reviewed articles and four book chapters. Bingcan has received several awards from AOCS, including the Young Scientist Research Award, Division Junior Researcher Travel Grant, Young Scientists to Watch, and The Thomas H. Smouse Memorial Fellowship.  Bingcan has been an active member in the Lipid Oxidation and Quality (LOQ) division of AOCS since 2009 and is the past Secretary-Treasurer of the division. 

1) How did it feel to win the Young Scientist Research Award?

When I was told that I was awarded the 2020 Young Scientist Research Award at the end of last year, I was really excited. This award has been given for 20 years. If you look at the list of past winners, from the first awardee Prof. Alejandro Marangoni to the latest awardee Prof. Guodong Zhang, they are the greatest Lipid Chemists in the world. It is such a great honor for me to win this fantastic award. I feel my past years’ work has been recognized. Winning this award will definitely encourage me to continue conducting great research to advance science and serve the food industry.

2) How did you get started in the field that you are studying or working in?

I started my bachelor’s study in Food Science and had half a year’s internship in one of the biggest liquor manufacturers in China to not only make, but also analyze the quality of koji. I am keen on the chemistry of foods. After two years of professorship in China, I made a big decision and went to the University of Massachusetts Amherst in pursuit of a Ph.D. under the supervision of the world-renowned Lipid Chemist Prof. Eric Decker. I was so lucky to have the opportunity to work with Eric who passed all his knowledge onto me without reservation, as well as bring me into a new world, AOCS.

3) Can you tell us about the research?

After securing a Professorship at the North Dakota State University, I have developed a very active research program and continued to contribute significantly to the mitigation of lipid oxidation and strategies for improving oxidative stability of oils in foods. My recent research has revealed a mechanism for the increase in antioxidant activity due to changes in the phenolic and polyphenolic composition of pulses upon germination. This has helped us to develop new types of dual-effect functional food ingredients through bioconjugation of pea proteins with identified phenolics. My research has revealed the source of beany flavors that occur with legume flours and protein isolates, which allows us to develop new processing technologies and strategies to mitigate these flavors. In addition, we are trying to understand the interaction of food phenolics and proteins in a molecular level using site-directed spin labeling in combination with electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy. This research is particularly important to the sensory aspects of phenolics in foods. 

4) What challenges have you overcome during your course of study or your career?

Language was the biggest challenge I had when I started my Ph.D. I still remember I got 2 out of 20 on my first Food Chemistry quiz. The major reason was I could not understand very well. Since then, I have tried to find any opportunities to talk to different people and attend events. This hastened my adaptation to the new environment. I received A’s for the rest of the courses during my study.

5) What advice can you share on how you have achieved success thus far in your career, whether that be entering a graduate program or a career in a prestigious position?

As a food/lipid scientist, I always feel that the Food System is so complicated. Such feelings become stronger when more research was carried out. I often feel the knowledge I have gained still cannot solve all the challenges we are encountering in the food industry. Therefore, to collaborate with scholars in other fields can sometimes help solve the puzzles. As a good example, I have been working with a group consisting of electric engineers and agriculture engineers trying to develop a radio frequency sensing platform to be integrated in a combine for grain quality test in the field. This is a great way for me to learn knowledge we typically are not taught in food science. New ideas can be fostered during such close collaboration.

6) How has AOCS helped you in your career?

I have been an active member of AOCS since 2016 and a former student member of the Society since 2009. My first debut was in 2010 AOCS annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ where I gave my first oral presentation. After that, I served as Student Representative of the LOQ division, Advisory board member of INFORM magazine. I was also the past secretary & treasurer of the LOQ division (2018-20). AOCS, for me, is the home of Lipid and Food Chemists throughout the world, and attending the annual meetings is like going back home for a reunion. The people I know at AOCS are just like family members. They help me a lot in my career, kindling new ideas for my research, guiding me through my career and preparing recommendation letters. 

7) Where do you see yourself in the next 5–10 years? Any challenges in reaching these goals?

I have been in the current position at NDSU for five years, during which I have built up a strong research team. In the next five years, I will use this platform to continue the great research I have accomplish thus far. One fascinating research we are doing is the unitization of CBD oil in the food system. NDSU is one of the few universities in the U.S. allowing us to conduct research from field to table. In addition to a great researcher, I also see myself as a great educator and will try to train and shape more of our next generation of cereal/food science professionals.

8) Do you have any words of wisdom for AOCS student members?

As an AOCS student member, you have the privilege to participate in numerous activities which would be a great opportunity for the students to network with the peers. Be proactive and try to contact with the division you are associated with and be involved in the activities such as annual meeting round table discussions, division meetings, etc. Try to jump out of the comfort zone you have built and open your eyes as our field is a multidisciplinary area encompassing chemistry, biochemistry, physics, engineering and analysis. Try to talk to people with different research backgrounds which may ignite new ideas for your own research.

9) How has AOCS helped you develop as a young scientist?

AOCS annual meeting is a great venue for me to keep abreast of the latest research. One of my current ongoing projects was on the basis of a presentation I learned from the meeting. I always wish I could have the ability to attend multiple presentations simultaneously during the meeting as these talks are of the greatest scientific quality. I also use this as a mechanism to encourage myself to conduct influential research to pay back our community. 

Check out the AOCS Awards Video featuring him:

Monday, June 29, 2020

AOCS Fellow Award Feature – Fred Eller

Q&A with Fred Eller, one of two recipients of the 2020 AOCS Fellow Award

A brief bio: Fred J. Eller, III is a Research Chemist in the Functional Foods Research Unit at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, (USDA-ARS) in Peoria, Illinois.  Dr. Eller is a native of Saint Paul, Minnesota and received his BSc and MSc degrees from the University of Minnesota and his PhD from the University of Florida.  He joined ARS in 1990, initially investigating insect chemical attractants (e.g., the isolation and identification of the aggregation pheromone of the pepper weevil).  He subsequently redirected his research efforts and focused on the utilization of supercritical fluids for the extraction and analysis of lipids under the tutelage and mentorship of Drs. Jerry W. King and Gary R. List.

Dr. Eller has been an active member of the American Oil Chemists' Society since 1996 and has organized symposia at AOCS Annual Meetings, held leadership roles in the Analytical Division, served on a variety of AOCS committees and currently serves as an Associate Editor for the Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society (2007-present).  Dr. Eller was awarded the AOCS Herbert J. Dutton Award in 2013.  Dr. Eller has authored or co-authored 90 publications and is first inventor on two United States Patents.  Dr. Eller has made 46 presentations at national and international meetings.  His current research interests include the utilization of critical fluids for the extraction, counter-current fractionation and processing of agricultural materials, as well as the isolation and identification of bioactive natural products He is especially interested in cedarwood oil extraction, bioactivity and utilization.

1) What was your reaction when you learned you had won the award?     

When I learned that I had been selected to receive the 2020 AOCS Fellow Award, I felt both honored and humbled, considering the list of renowned researchers who have preceded me in receiving this award.  When I first began my career as a Research Entomologist at the USDA Northern Regional Research Center (currently the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research), I would have never imagined ever being involved with the American Oil Chemists' Society, let alone receiving this prestigious award.  Interestingly, the first insect pheromone I isolated and identified was ethyl palmitoleate, so maybe fatty acids were always in my future!  I am very thankful for all the opportunities and success that have come my way through my association with the AOCS and its members. 

2) How did you get started in the field that you are studying or working in?

My formal training is in entomology. My interest in insect chemical ecology began after I started working as an undergraduate technician for Dr. Robert Bartelt who was investigating sawfly pheromones at the University of Minnesota.  I subsequently began my master’s research there and discovered that ethyl palmitoleate served as an attractant for an insect parasitoid.  After completing my Ph.D. at the University of Florida, I took a post-doctoral position the Northern Regional Research Lab (now the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research) where I studied the aggregation pheromones of the pepper weevil and plum curculio.  I eventually took a permanent position with Dr. Jerry King utilizing critical fluids for extraction and fractionation of lipids.  This position led to studies of the extraction and analysis of cedarwood oil using carbon dioxide. This research has grown into studies on the use of cedarwood oil as an insect repellent, insecticide and for protecting wood from termites and wood-decay fungi which continues today. 

3) Can you tell us about your current research?

Currently, I am studying essential oils from several species of trees.  I am especially interested in Eastern red cedar and related species.  I am investigating different extraction methods to determine the most efficient means to remove the essential oils from wood.  The extracted essential oils are then chemically characterized, formulated and tested for their biological activity.  The essential oils are used to pressure treat wood and subsequently the treated wood is tested for resistance against wood-destroying species like termites and decay fungi.  In addition, the essential oils are evaluated for their repellency against ants and toxicity against insect pests such as mosquitoes, biting flies as well as ticks.  It is my goal to find expanded uses for abundant underutilized natural resources.

4) What challenges have you overcome during your course of study or your career?

The biggest challenge I have faced in my career was securing a permanent full-time position as an independent scientist.  Attaining that goal has made my life much less stressful.

5) What advice can you share on how you have achieved success thus far in your career, whether that be entering a graduate program or a lengthy career in a prestigious position?

There are countless factors that can affect one’s career.  One needs to focus on those you can control yourself.  Working hard, getting along with others, having a good attitude and patience are all things you can control.  I believe, if you focus on these things, you will have a successful career wherever it might take you.

6) Why did you decide to volunteer with AOCS in so many capacities including on the Smalley Committee, LPP Committee, the Uniform Methods Committee, and on the Forum Organizing Committee for the AOCS Pulse Science and Technology forum?

I believe that what you get out of a professional society is related to what you put into the society.  Over the years, I been offered opportunities to serve in many areas.  I have always tried to volunteer my time and abilities as best I could.  I enjoy working on the committees and I have met many colleagues through this service.  I like to think I have made some positive contributions to AOCS.

7) How has AOCS helped you in your career?

I have formed many professional connections which have furthered my career.  I learned a great deal about the peer-review publication process through my associate editor position which has definitely helped me in my personal publication process.  The Annual Meeting is always a great source of ideas and inspiration for my research.  The contacts I have made through the society are a valuable source of information and research collaborations.

8) What are some fond memories or experiences you’ve had from your AOCS service?

My fondest memories are undoubtedly those of informal gatherings with my colleagues and friends where we can talk, laugh, share food and drink, and maybe even discuss lipids!

Check out the AOCS Awards video featuring him: