Thursday, February 25, 2021

Interview with Protein and Co-Products Division student member Ogadimma Desmond Okagu

Ogadimma Desmond Okagu is a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada. He is a new member of AOCS and the PCP Division, joined the Society in 2020.

How did you get involve with AOCS and the PCP Division?

I was introduced to AOCS by my PhD supervisor, Dr. Udenigwe, and I joined the PCP Division, which is most related to my work.

How do you hope or how has AOCS helped in solving the challenges you encounter in your work and/or research?

I attended the 2020 AOCS virtual meeting and, it was very impactful, especially in addressing some key issues related to protein nanoparticle preparation, zeta potential analysis, TEM image acquisition and kinetic release.

What excites you the most about your present work?

The fact that food-based protein nano delivery vehicles could be engineered to behave the way we want for targeted delivery of biodegradable, insoluble, non-accessible, and non-bioavailable bioactive compounds.

Have you presented at an AOCS annual meeting before?

No, I was one of the four finalists for the student oral competition, which did not go as planned due to COVID-19. I am hoping that my work will be accepted for presentation in the coming 2021 AOCS annual meeting.  (editor note - it was!)

How has the present situation with COVID-19 changed your daily life

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted my daily life. Having to work from home means that hours for laboratory research have been considerably reduced. That impacts the pace of the project, which I would have loved to progress much faster. On the home front, however, the work-from-home routine has allowed me to enjoy quality family time with my partner and kids. I have channeled my energy into writing manuscripts and publishing my work. I have also been performing my teaching assistantship role virtually, and it has been quite a remarkable and impactful experience. I consider these to be something good that I have achieved amidst the precarious pandemic situation.

What is your career goal?

My career aspiration is to become a successful professor in food chemistry, specifically in the application of nanotechnology for protein-based delivery systems and bio-nano interaction.

Meet Ogadimma Desmond Okagu at the 2021 AOCS Annual Meeting & Expo

His presentation topics are:

'Impact of succinylation on pea protein-curcumin interaction, polyelectrolyte complexation with chitosan, and gastrointestinal release of curcumin in loaded-biopolymer nano-complexes'

'Influence of structural properties of pea globulin, albumin and glutelin on interaction and nanocomplexation with curcumin, formation of pepsin resistant and thermo-stabilized spherical bio-nanocomplexes for oral delivery'


Interview with Protein and Co-Products Division volunteer Dr. B. Pam Ismail

Dr. B. Pam Ismail is a Professor at the University of Minnesota and an active volunteer in the PCP Division. She joined AOCS in 2016 and since then serving the Society by chairing various technical sessions and disseminating scientific knowledge through technical presentations.

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical workday is full of meetings with my research team, committees and industry. I squeeze in time to answer e-mails, work on reports, review theses, write grants, and work on manuscripts or perform activities related to serving my department and the profession.

Flashback to when you were 10 years old. What did you want to be when you grew up?

Medical doctor; influenced by my maternal grandfather.

What excites you the most about your present work?

I have many work-related passions: interacting with students and watching them grow in knowledge and taking part in training them to become our future scientists and professionals; building collaborative efforts to advance research discoveries, and the endless learnings from my colleagues and my students just the same.

Can you share a turning point or defining moment of your career as a scientist?

Taking a sabbatical year at an industry was definitely an important turning point in my career. This experience allowed me to redirect my research to relevant needs and trends. The knowledge gained allowed me to use my research tools better and build a collaborative platform between industry and researchers. This platform is the nation’s first Plant Protein Innovation Center.

Share an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of and why?

I consider establishing the Plant Protein Innovation Center (PPIC) as one of my main achievements and I am very proud of it. At its core, the PPIC is a collaborative entity that strives to bring together a diverse mindset to efficiently establish a fundamental knowledge base on plant proteins that will benefit the scientific community, the industry, the growing population, the environment, and provide economic revenue to farmers. Our industry members and many supporters are vital in moving this effort forward.

Why did you join AOCS? How has AOCS impacted your career?

The protein related activities, in terms of scientific sessions and committees, attracted me to join AOCS. AOCS serves as a platform to share our knowledge and research findings, learn from renowned researchers as well as industry professionals, and establish new and key connections.

How do you relax after a hard day of work?

I cook a hearty meal and spend quality time with my family.

How the present situation with COVID-19 change your daily life?

I learned to communicate in creative ways, efficiently execute my work, respect others' safety, and work with others innovatively. Working from home was a new concept that I had to get used to. The situation, however, brought creativity to how we teach, connect, and communicate with others. Zoom became the new norm. The new way of communicating allowed for involvement in more conferences and meetings than I could ever be part of in a normal year. Teaching online, allowed me to gain technological skills that I will be able to utilize in the future regardless. I cooked more; eating out became a foreign concept. Finally, I spent more time with my teen daughter than I ever did during her entire high school years, and that is a blessing.   

What are you looking forward to in the coming months?

More of the same, discoveries, new connections, training my students, sharing the knowledge, continue learning, seeing my daughter go physically to college and enjoy the experience, and of course I look forward to the end of the pandemic! Finally, I am hoping for inclusivity and respect for our diverse community.

Thank you for your service Dr. Ismail!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Vermont Dia joins the AOCS Professional Educator CIG leadership team

The AOCS Professional Educator Common Interest Group supports educators in all AOCS interest areas by creating connections which lead to collaboration, the sharing of information and resources throughout the year, and designing relevant sessions during the AOCS Annual Meeting.

This interview will introduce the new member of our leadership team – Dr. Vermont Dia

Dr. Vermont Dia currently holds an assistant professor position in the Department of Food Science at The University of Tennessee. His research work focuses on the evaluation of health-promoting properties of food-derived constituents. His research group is investigating the role of bioactive peptides and polyphenols in the prevention and management of non-communicable diseases with emphasis on inflammatory bowel diseases and cancer. His teaching/mentoring responsibilities includes the courses Food Chemistry Lab, Science of Foods. Dr. Dia also actively serves as advisor of the Food Science Club and major professor of undergraduate and graduate students. 

Why did you join AOCS and how long have you been a member? 

AOCS serves as our venue to showcase our research on the bioactive properties of food proteins as well as other co-products from oil processing. It is also a great place to interact with colleagues of varying expertise on the field of oils and co-products. I’ve been an AOCS member for a total of 6 years.

How has your involvement with the AOCS influenced your career? 

AOCS has given our research exposure, especially with a small tight group of scientists working on proteins and co-products, so it does positively impact and influence both mine and my students’ career.

Why did you decide to join the PE CIG? 

To learn and share techniques, skills, and tips on how to teach the science of oils and co-products more effectively.

What led you to where you are now? Tell us about previous jobs, school, other life journey that led you to where you are. 

My TA in General Chemistry during my undergrad years at the University of the Philippines Los Baños inspired me. She was just great and I told myself I wanted to be like her. During my career I have been in roles as a quality assurance analyst for Monde Nissin Corporation (Sta. Rosa, Laguna Philippines), a faculty member (University of the Philippines Los Baños), and a visiting teaching associate/Postdoc (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).


What do you love most about your position? 

Interacting with students, it drives my day-to-day activities both in the research lab and in the classroom.

How do you define success? 

Being happy and always striving for betterment and advancement of oneself.

Who inspires you? Or who has been the most influential person in your career?

I would say my General Chemistry TA. She’s the one who made me think of a career in the academia. 

What’s one thing - either academy/industry-related or not - you learned in the last month?

I have learned that teaching the Food Chemistry Lab during pandemic can be done efficiently without sacrificing educational quality. 

If you could give advice to young AOCS members, what would it be? 

Always seek for opportunities, and don’t be shy to fight for it if you think you are qualified.

What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know? 

I like karaoke (but I don’t have a good singing voice)

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work? 

I enjoy going to the gym regularly (most of the time in the early hours of the morning)

Monday, February 22, 2021

Spotlight on Hongbing Fan, recipient of the 2021 Thomas H. Smouse Memorial Fellowship

 The Thomas H. Smouse Memorial Fellowship is awarded to graduate students doing research in fats, oils, proteins, surfactants and related materials. The purpose of this graduate fellowship is to encourage, recognize and support outstanding research in a field of study consistent with the areas of interest to AOCS.

This spotlight will tell you more about Hongbing Fan, who was the recipient of the 2020 Health and Nutrition Division Student Award and has gone on to win the Thomas H. Smouse Memorial Fellowship in 2021. 

Provide a brief biography

I am a Ph.D. student under the supervision of Dr. Jianping Wu in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science at the University of Alberta in Canada. Prior to this, I graduated from China Agricultural University with my masters degree in Food Science. My current research interests include Protein Chemistry and Functional Foods, especially the health benefits of food-derived bioactive peptides. I joined AOCS in 2018 and since then, I have actively participated in various academic and social activities in AOCS. I volunteer as the Chair of the Student Common Interest Group (2019-2021), the student representative in the Canadian Section's AOCS leadership team (2019-2021), as well as the technical or poster session co-chair in the PCP and H&N Divisions of the 2020 and 2021 annual meetings.

Can you tell us about your current research?

My thesis project is to develop antihypertensive peptides from spent hen muscle proteins. Spent hens are laying hens that reach the end of their egg-laying cycle and are a major byproduct in the egg industry. Every year, more than 30 million spent hens are produced in Canada and ten times more of those produced in North America. Processing them for food/feed uses is of little economic value to the industry; they are mostly disposed by burial, composting and incineration, which raise environmental and animal welfare concerns. Hypertension is a global health concern and food protein-derived antihypertensive peptides are an emerging treatment for hypertension. Although being treated as a byproduct, spent hens are rich in various animal proteins which are a good source of antihypertensive peptides. This project aims to purify and identify novel antihypertensive peptides from spent hen muscle proteins, followed by validating their efficacies in various cell and animal models of hypertension.

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

It was very exciting when I knew that I was selected for this award. This is a true honor and inspired me to focus on my study and research work and gave me some flexibility to wrap up my project.

How has AOCS helped develop your career?

I have ever been recognized as the winner of the H&N division poster competition (2019), the H&N division award (2020), the Society Honored Student Award (2019), and the Thomas H. Smouse Memorial Fellowship (2020). I wanted to express my sincere thanks to AOCS for awarding me these honors. It further built up my confidence to showcase my research and connect myself with other professionals or colleagues, which inspired me, as a student, to further undertake more roles in the AOCS community. Many of the world's excellent scholars and researchers are present at AOCS Annual Meetings, therefore it is a great platform for networking and interaction with peers.

Meet our award winner

Hongbing Fan will be presenting his work on 'Spent hen-derived angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) upregulating peptide reduces blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats' at the 2021 AOCS Annual Meeting & Expo, May 3-14, 2021

Spotlight on Francisco Leyva Gutierrez, Ralph H. Potts Memorial Fellowship Award Winner

The Ralph H. Potts Memorial Fellowship recognizes graduate students conducting excellent research related to fatty acids and their derivatives, such as long-chain alcohols, amines and other nitrogen compounds. 

The award is sponsored by Nouryon.

This spotlight will introduce you to Francisco Leyva Gutierrez, the 2021 award winner.

Provide a brief biography.

I am a Southern California native and obtained a B.Sc. Food Science and Technology with a minor in chemistry from the California State Polytechnic University  Pomona.  I worked in the food manufacturing industry as well as United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service  for a combined 3 years. I began my Ph.D. in Food Science in 2018 and I am currently at The University of Tennessee Knoxville.

Can you tell us about your current research?

My current research deals with the synthesis and physical characterization of very-long chain wax compounds from sweet oranges (Citrus sinensis L.) and blueberries (Vaccinium sect. Cyanococcus). Plant waxes are the primary line of defense against moisture loss as well as physical and biological attack. By studying and learning the properties of these waxes, my aim is to formulate alternative postharvest coatings that enhance the plant's natural defenses.

How has AOCS helped develop your career?

Being an active AOCS member has thus far exposed me to new industry and academic connections.

Meet our award winner:

Francisco Leyva Gutierrez will be presenting "Characterization of by-products from commercial cannabidiol ethanol extraction" at the 2021 AOCS Annual Meeting & Expo, May 3-14, 2021

Spotlight on Zoriana Demchuk, winner of the 2021 Industrial Oil Products Division Student Excellence Award

The Industrial Oil Products Division Student Award recognizes graduate students presenting an outstanding paper within the Industrial Oil Products technical program at the AOCS Annual Meeting.

This spotlight will introduce you to Zoriana Demchuk, winner of the 2021 award.

Provide a brief biography:

I am enthusiastic, adaptive and fast-learning person with a broad and acute  interest in the discovery of new innovative polymer materials. I particularly enjoy  collaborating with scientists from different disciplines to develop new skills  and solve new challenges.  In my life chemistry became a major part in my everyday routine. Since 2006 I plunged in learning chemistry and its processes and mechanisms. I just received PhD degree in Polymer Chemistry and after graduation I found a job where I can apply my thoughts and ideas into real life. Now,   I work at Oak Ridge National Lab as Postdoctoral Research Associate. I believe this job will provide me an opportunity to achieve my goals in future and become a perspective chemist who solve hundreds of task and maintain the high productivity level of work.

Can you tell us about your current research?

My research study is directed to the synthesis of biobased polymeric materials from plant oils. Over five years, we developed a library of vinyl monomers derived from plant oils. These monomers are highly reactive and could be a good replacement for petroleum-based materials. Incorporation of flexible plan oil-based monomers into polymers provide hydrophobicity and film-forming properties to the resulted materials. Plant oil-based monomers have found to be biodegradable and eco-friendly which makes them a promising materials for future industrial applications.

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

I was really excited and pleased when I heard that I received AOCS Student Excellence reward. The recognition of my research by AOCS is an excellent opportunity and driving force to move further. It provides enormous support for the research to develop new ideas and discoveries in application of plant oils for future materials.

How has AOCS helped develop your career?

AOCS always supports my research and gives new opportunities to move my research on the next level. Attending AOCS conferences every other year helped me to find new collaborations and established strong relationship with industrial partners.

Meet our 2021 Industrial Oil Products Division Student Excellence Award Winner

Zoriana Demchuk will be presenting her paper on "The Effect of Fatty Acid Unsaturation on Properties and Performance of Monomers, Polymers, and Latexes from Plant Oils" at the 2021 AOCS Annual Meeting and Expo, May 3-14, 2021

Spotlight on Dhruvesh B. Patel, winner of the 2021 AOCS Health and Nutrition Division Student Excellence Award

The Health and Nutrition Division Student Award recognizes graduate students presenting an outstanding paper within the Health and Nutrition technical program at the AOCS Annual Meeting.

This spotlight will introduce you to Dhruvesh Patel, the 2021 award winner.

Provide a brief biography

I was born in India where I completed my high school education. I have lived in Canada for 8 years equally divided between Toronto and Edmonton. After completing a diploma in Fitness and Health Promotion I transferred to York University, Toronto for undergrad in Kinesiology. For my graduate studies, I moved to Edmonton where I started as a Masters student at University of Alberta and  later transferred to PhD in Nutrition and Metabolism. Currently, I am in my 4th year of PhD and plan to pursue research in Nutrition and Immunology after graduation. Living in Edmonton, I have started to like winter and winter activities. Recently, I had a chance to see Northern Lights. I love outdoor biking, hiking in Canadian Rocky mountains. Outside of work, I want to learn about nature photography.

Can you tell us about your current research?

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential nutrients but we don't know their importance for a normal immune system development, particularly in infants with genetic predisposition to atopic diseases. My research focuses on identifying the importance of functionally active omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and omega-6, arachidonic acid (ARA) in the development of immune system in infants. Using animal models, we study these fatty acids by supplementing them in animal diet during different periods of infancy. Part of my research has been published in Journal of Nutrition. Next, we plan to study oral tolerance of egg protein in allergic mouse models.

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

I was very happy and honored to have received the H&N Division Student Award. To celebrate the achievement, I went to Jasper (Alberta) and spent a night watching starts and northern lights.

How has AOCS helped develop your career?

AOCS is a multidisciplinary group of elites with a keen interest in research and development. With this comes a plethora of knowledge and tools that new trainees like myself can access. AOCS though their webinar programs and annual events has provided me the opportunity to interact with researchers and obtain guidance to propel in the next step of my academic pursuits.

Meet our 2021 AOCS Health and Nutrition Division Student Excellence Award Winner

Dhruvesh Patel will be presenting his work which demonstrates that supplementing docosahexaenoic acid along with arachidonic acid during weaning period improves immune response in neonatal Brown Norway rats at the 2021 AOCS Annual Meeting & Expo, May 3-14, 2021