Friday, July 31, 2020

AOCS seeks applications for the AOCS Governing Board

AOCS is accepting applications for service on the Governing Board. Interested members should review the position profile and to apply, fill out this Google form or this downloadable PDF by Friday, September 18, 2020.

Please note, that the Google form application does require you to log in to a Google account to complete it. For those, who do not have a Google account, please use the downloadable PDF.

AOCS Governing Board Nominating and Election Process

The AOCS Nominating & Election Committee is responsible for proposing to the AOCS Governing Board for its approval a slate of candidates for election in accordance with the Society’s policies. The Committee will evaluate information submitted by applicants and interview top candidates believed to be the best fit based on current needs before finalizing the proposed slate. The Committee develops a proposed slate and submits its recommendation to the Governing Board for approval at its winter meeting. The final slate of candidates is presented to the AOCS membership for approval by February 15, 2021.  New members will be installed at the AOCS Governing Board meeting that takes place during the AOCS Annual Meeting & Expo.

Australasian Section Award for Scientific Excellence in Lipid Research – Surinder Singh

Q&A with Surinder Singh the recipient of the 2020 Australasian Section Award for Scientific Excellence in Lipid Research

A brief biography: Surinder Singh, Chief Research Scientist, CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Canberra, Australia, has pioneered the successful genetic modification of fatty acid composition in oil crops to provide improved nutritional value for human health and improved functionality for novel industrial end uses. He has also developed new varieties of oilseed crops (canola and safflower) as well as increasing the oil content in leaves of conventional crops (eg. sorghum) and has provided the science underpinning the commercial development of these new crops. 

In his work, Dr. Singh combines a unique blend of gene discovery, which enables him to transform scientific concepts into agricultural products for commercial applications. The canola producing large amounts of the long-chain omega-3 oils that are essential for human health, and the modified safflower oil for industrial applications have been deregulated in Australia and licensed to commercial companies. Surinder Singh has more than 100 granted patents. He is elected as a fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences and fellow Australian Academy of Technology & Engineering in 2019.

1) How did it feel to win the Australasian Section Award for Scientific Excellence in Lipid Research?

I am extremely proud to have been awarded the 2020 Australasian Section Award for Scientific Excellence in Lipid Research. I consider this a great recognition of the work done by my team over the last 25 years in the Plant Oil Engineering Group at CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Canberra. 

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

I have always been interested in how plants work.  My Ph.D. focused on plant membrane responses to low temperatures and hormones.  This is how I got interested in plant lipids and the important role storage lipids, like triglycerides (plant oil), have in providing reduced carbon both for nutrition as well as industrial end uses.

3) Can you tell us more about your current research?

Over the last 25 years, my research focus has been on translational research in the field of plant lipid biotechnology and am a holder of more than 100 patents.  I was cited by Nature Biotechnology as one of the world's top ten translational researchers for 2014.  In 2019, I was elected as a Fellow of The Australian Academy of Sciences as well as a Fellow of The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. For the last two decades, I have been at the forefront of developing new genetically engineered oilseed crops.  Two new crops, Omega-3 Canola and Super-high Oleic Safflower, are ready to enter global commercial production through licensees in 2020/2021. Currently, my lab is harnessing the power of synthetic biology to create new platforms for lipid production. 

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

The biggest challenge I have had to face in my career as a research scientist is the uncertainty of funding.  Research dollars are scarce which sets up fierce competition these dollars.  This leads to funding being cut off at most inopportune moments.  

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?

The key to success in having a productive and sustained research career in science is to plan ahead and always try and catch the next wave of excitement and hence funding in your particular field of research.  Risk-taking is also a very important part of breakthrough research.  Above all, it is important to be passionate about science and what you are trying to achieve.

6) How has AOCS helped you in your career?

AOCS has been a very important element in my career.  My research has been focused on developing new products for the fats and oils industry.  AOCS membership provides me very valuable insights into the needs and new developments in the fats and oils industry.  I have also found attending the AOCS meetings and journals extremely useful in networking and interacting with industry players.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Surfactants and Detergents Division Networking Reception

Recently, the Surfactants and Detergents Division hosted a virtual networking reception.

All in all, 17 Division members from Mexico and the United States attended and included a range of members from young professionals to those “trying-to-retire.”

Some time was spent checking in on one another during the pandemic as well as getting to know completely new faces.

Everyone got a bit of a lesson in surfactant solvency in coatings and paired hearty laughter with a few brews and spritzers.

The members had such a wonderful time that they plan to host another social get together a month from now.

So, stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Samuel Rosen Memorial Award Feature - Jean-Louis Salager

A Q&A with Jean-Louis Salager, the winner of the Samuel Rosen Memorial Award

A brief bio: Professor Jean-Louis Salager earned a BS in Chemistry from University of Nancy-France and a degree in Chemical Engineering from ENSIC France, an MSc. PhD and Postdoc from University of Texas at Austin USA. He is the founder and former director of the Laboratory of Formulation, Interfaces, Rheology and Processes (FIRP), an applied research center that has been around for 40 years at University of The Andes, Mérida, Venezuela, with over 20 faculty members from Chemical Engineering, Chemistry and Pharmacy.  

Professor Salager has been teaching at University of The Andes (Mérida, Venezuela) since 1970, where he founded the School of Chemical Engineering and the graduate program in Process Engineering, and where he is now Emeritus Professor. He is also a consultant and instructor in formulation engineering for petroleum, food, paint, cosmetic and personal care products. He has given 250 courses mostly for industry people in 14 countries.

Professor Salager has published 20 book chapters and is (co)author of 7 patents and over 250 scientific papers on formulation of surfactant systems, micro-, macro, and nano-emulsions and foams for various applications. He has been the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Surfactants and Detergents (AOCS) and the Regional Editor for Latin America of the Journal of Dispersion Science and Technology (previously Marcel Dekker, USA, now Taylor and Francis, UK). He has been a guest editor of “Emulsion Science and Engineering – A tribute to Paul Becher”, which is a special three-volume book with 34 articles and 450 pages, published by Marcel Dekker.

At the end of his more than 30-year university-industry career, he was offered four top awards in Venezuela: The Simón Bolivar Academic Accomplishment (FAPUV 1997) highest academic award in Venezuela; the National Scientific Prize in Technological Research (CONICIT 1997) highest scientific award in Venezuela, presented by the President of the country; the annual Award for the Best Technological Research (FUNDACITE 2002); the Annual Prize in Chemistry of the Venezuelan Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences (2003).

Among his international distinctions, he was listed in Marquis’ Who is Who in the World (1999) and was elected a member of the Latin America Academy of Sciences (2002). He was ranked by the Google Scholar Profile as the #2 top scientist living in Venezuela with a Hirsch index of 56 and 11,000 citations. 

1) How did it feel to win the Samuel Rosen Memorial Award? 

I cannot say I was very surprised because I knew that AOCS recognizes the contribution of its members … in many ways. Actually, I knew I had been proposed last year by well-known scientists. When I learned I had won the Rosen award this year, I felt happy and satisfied for that, as a result of having tried for years to help AOCS to be better known as a scientific association with a strong industrial connection and useful practical journals, in opposition to the excessive use of fundamental publications carried out by other scientific associations. I knew that my efforts and longtime dedication as editor in chief have helped the JSD to survive and that my Lab FIRP group has been invited by AOCS to present useful talks and to publish understandable and efficient papers for the industry. We have been careful in our submissions to JSD. As far as our interfacial rheology, completely new concepts are concerned. Our first practical paper was sent to JSD before the fundamental second one of a series, which was sent to Langmuir, a very famous American Chemical Society Journal.

Additionally, I should also say that I received my nomination as the first non-USA citizen to be a journal Editor-in-Chief as a considerable recognition of my previous work, given AOCS’ worldwide position in the industry. 

Of course, I must say that I consider the Samuel Rosen Award a top, industry-related prize compared to other recognition I have received in the past years from governments, universities and specific industries, and I felt quite honored receiving this exceptional distinction from a top world association from industry people like AOCS.

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

As far as my current specialty is concerned, in 1973 the petroleum was sold at about $3 USD/Bbl, and the world main producer (Saudi Arabia) decided to considerably reduce its production to trigger a world shortage and to motivate an increase of the price. From 1974 to 75, the reduced importations of crude oil in the US resulted in queues at the gasoline service stations and the increase in selling smaller cars with lower consumption. The petroleum reserves with the current technology and prices at this time were said to be less than 20 years and with a final oil recovery of only 20-25% of the original oil in place. This situation resulted in a steady increase in world petroleum prices, which attained a price of more than $30 USD/Bbl at the end of the 1970s. For the US and other petroleum producers, the likely solution in the mid-1970s was to increase production by using an improved technology called Enhanced Oil Recovery EOR, which could be developed with the price increase. Thanks to my previous work with petroleum in France and Venezuela, and a rapid and successful MSc in USA, I was offered a grant to enter a new R&D group at University of Texas which was strongly sponsored by industry and government agencies.

3) What do you consider your major accomplishments from your career?

I would say I have seven major accomplishments from my career corresponding to the creation of an R&D lab with both academic and industry features and the creation and development of six innovative subjects over 40 years: (1) Surfactant Affinity Difference SAD equation and then (2) Hydrophilic-Lipophilic Deviation HLD for minimum tension, (3) Mixing surfactants, (4) Lipophilic linker, (5) Extended surfactant, (6) Minimum of the interfacial dilational viscosity at optimum formulation.
The first thing was that I started a Research-Development laboratory (FIRP) with a double activity. First, the usual academic work in a university laboratory doing fundamental research on surfactant science through different types of thesis: half of the fifth year of an undergraduate bachelor degree, the typical Master (1.5 years) and PhD (3 years), and one to two year post-doc positions for visiting researchers. 

Since 1978, our laboratory, with about 20 professors-researchers, supervised about 100 theses, 60 of them MS and PhD students. From this R&D we produced about 700 publications, among them the edition of a book, 30 book chapters, 350 articles and 250 conferences. My name was on about 2/3 of these publications. 

See in Spanish and in English.

Our publication list can be viewed at  

The second activity was to carry out a great deal of scientific and technical work for industrial companies through contracts to resolve practical problems and to teach specific courses dedicated not only to knowledge but also to know-how. In the past 40 years, we had 60 contracts not only with oil companies buy also with industries making surfactants, and producing detergents and other cleaners, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, food products, paints, etc. Most of this work was not divulged in articles (only 10-15%) but in private and confidential reports. Some results were partially divulgated in patents, sometimes with our participation as coauthor. 

An important part of this work was the private formation of scientific researchers in the industry within specific intensive 3 to 4-day programs, often followed by one day of consulting. In the past 30 years, I have given or participated in 250 formations in 14 countries. This second activity had to be co-organized together with the first one and was the principal source of the financing of all the laboratory work including the academic. In recent years, this second type of activity has increased and currently represents about 2/3 of our work with most of our industrial customers out of Venezuela. 

As far as specific innovations are concerned, the first one started in my PhD in Texas and subsequent work in Venezuela (1975-1980), i.e., the multivariable formulation concept, called the SAD ¬— "Surfactant Affinity Difference" including the surfactant characteristics, the co-surfactant content, the oil type, the brine salinity, the temperature), i.e. six variables … instead of 2 in the previous HLB work by other people.  Then started to develop with R. Anton the formulation for mixing different surfactants to attain various new properties like insensibility to temperature (1987-88). A completely new innovation was to introduced the "Lipophilic Linker" concept in partnership with A. Graciaa group in France (1993) and the new "Extended surfactants design" was created in partnership with M. Miñana-Perez during a doctorate, done, partially, in France thanks to a cooperation program (1994-96). 

I, then, introduced the more fundamental continuation of the SAD which was called the "HLD or hydrophilic-lipophilic deviation" (2000-2005) which was systematically applied to the optimum formulation of surfactant-oil-water systems to attain low interfacial tension for enhanced oil recovery (with a prize from Journal Surfactants and Detergents in 2015), very low emulsion stability for petroleum dehydration (with the best paper prize in Energy & Fuels in 2016), and special emulsion properties for cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food products. 

From 2014 to 2017, I developed in my lab. with R. Marquez, a new apparatus called the spinning drop interfacial rheometer, which allowed for the first time in the world to measurement interfacial dilational viscosity at optimum formulation and its ground-breaking relationship with emulsion breaking (winning another prize of the best paper of the year from the Journal of Surfactants and Detergents in 2019).

4) Can you tell us more about your current research?

So, my applied research activities started in 1975 at University of Texas at Austin with Professors R. Schechter &  W. Wade who were building one of the first R&D groups on enhanced oil recovery with a strong target at resolving very complex problems with a practical approach. After my PhD and postdoc in the USA, I was invited to return to the Chemical Engineering School I had founded in Venezuela to create a large R&D group able to carry out a unique synergy with innovative academic understanding and efficient practical know-how. This involved working as both a university research group, producing graduate theses and fundamental papers, and as an industrial center, reaching efficient solutions without divulging, except for patents. 

It may be said that in general, these two simultaneous approaches were in opposition to one another and had conflicting interests that could not be resolved. My main contribution was to negotiate with people in the university, government and industry. The selection of new formulation issues in enhanced oil recovery and the increase in petroleum prices in the 1970s provided incentives to reduce the usual incompatibilities.  However, it was necessary to advance efficiently with both the overall understanding and the research’s applications. Having parallel work on simple phenomena to create fundamental knowledge (producing thesis and publications) and real cases to generate practical know-how (producing profits to finance the lab work) were at the core of this endeavor.

With the help of up to 40 people at Lab FIRP (first, it was Interfacial Phenomena and Enhanced Oil Recovery in Spanish then Formulation, Interfaces, Rheology and Processes in Spanish, English and French) and 40 more in associated laboratories in North/South America and Europe, the concept of optimum formulation was generalized from different techniques used since 1950. My new laboratory team contributed to show that in such formulations, a very low interfacial tension was attained, the phase inversion occurs, the emulsion was inverted, the microemulsion solubilization was maximum, the emulsion stability was at a minimum and the interfacial rheology was practically nonexistent. 

My very significant contribution was to find a numerical equation between six formulation variables to reach an optimum formulation in surfactant-oil-water systems at a given temperature and pressure. This equation allows the prediction of efficient cases for applications without making thousands of measurements, thus reducing the time to get a solution in very different surfactant-oil-water systems such as in petroleum recovery, emulsion breaking, food emulsion, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, inks and paints, cleaning products, etc.

In the past 20 years, about 10 other R&D groups in North/South America, Europe and Asia started to use the Lab FIRP basic understanding and know-how and contribute with us to advance with fundamentals issues and in practical solutions in more complex cases. 

Our current lab follows specific R&D, not only in EOR but also in lignin surfactants use, petroleum dehydration, foods containing water and oil, residual emulsion breaking, creams for cosmetic and medical treatment of skin. 

For more information, visit or

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

I completed both a BS in chemistry, later pursue R&D at a university, and studied to become a Chemical Engineer and work in an industrial research center to solve problems. My PhD was from the start of working on a new concept (Enhanced Oil Recovery) by injecting surfactant into a crude oil reservoir. The challenge was to create a mixture of new formulation with aspects applied to a practical case with six variables, i.e. too many to be screened in a doctorate R&D. The challenge was met by gathering the variables in a generalized formulation correlation which could describe the physicochemical properties with the temperature and pressure in a relatively simple three-dimensional way rendering the effect of eight variables on many phenomena like the oil-water interfacial tension, the phase behavior, the solubilization, the interfacial rheology, the emulsion type and principal properties (stability, drop size, viscosity). My work helped in building not only knowledge but also know-how for about 10 university researchers from MSc to PhD, postdocs and professors at UT, as well as about 10 other R&D people in industry, to organize their work toward the building of new results. My last year as a postdoc, I helped several industrial researchers integrate their formation and studies to the UT group and to transfer the advances to their companies.

The challenge was to help the cooperation between two areas generally working with different approaches and different urgencies, i.e. a university scientific high-level knowledge and understanding with an industrial practical and effective know-how.

6) 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?

With the mind of both a scientist and an engineer, and concerned about new knowledge and new know-how, I try to learn and understand as much as possible but also save time and money to reach reasonable results in practice. This implies simplifying R&D methods and making them more efficient and innovative by optimizing between various conflicting aspects that make collaboration between university and industry difficult. This requires determining the R&D program asking the scientific questions whose answers will solve practical problems, with some fundamental aspects that could produce theses for university degrees and publications but whose practical results will be kept undivulged while producing benefits. 

This strategy often requires organizing parallel studies with same goals but different applications, for instance, a fundamental research program with pure ethoxylated alcohol and pure n-hexane or n-octane, and a real case with a commercial petroleum sulfonate and crude oil, or a detergent with greasy dirt from the kitchen containing natural fats. If the same R&D question/answer program can be carried out with fundamental and applied cases, it is possible to satisfy both the academic and industry expectations. The experience shows that the management of such duplicated creativity requires a large group of researchers (20-30), with academic and industry experience, constant communication and negotiation, and the ability of a leader to motivate a synergy rather than accumulate conflicts. The usual competition between researchers working in the same group should be substituted by a clear advantage generally described as an equation 1+1=3 as far as the production and benefit is concerned.

7) How has AOCS helped you in your career?

I really got to know AOCS when it started to publish the JSD as an independent journal in the late 90s. The FIRP lab published in JSD in its inaugural year (1998) a practical paper on optimization of a lipophilic linker, a new finding which had been retained from divulgation for 5 years by the confidentiality agreed in an industrial contract. Our lab FIRP was in contact with R&D people at the University of Oklahoma at Norman and with some surfactant manufacturers in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s and this helps us to approach the AOCS team. 

My AOCS Membership also helped us to make presentations at congresses and to write more adapted publications, which often resulted in favorable contacts with worldwide industrial companies and discussion to realize practical contracts with them. I would say that a fair part of the more than 250 courses/advise short activities I have helped to develop in 14 countries over the past 25 years have come to fruition thanks to AOCS congresses or publications. So, it may be said that AOCS made me more efficient in my teaching work at a nonconventional level of collaboration from university to industry.

As an Editor-in-Chief of JSD for a few years, I have also learned how to maximize a publication’s effect according to the most attractive purpose of such article in different cases: an easy understanding of complex things, a useful way of learning practical know-how and how to use fundamental knowledge to create useful tutorials.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Memorial for Hyam Myers

AOCS was saddened to hear of the passing of Hyam Myers, a longtime member of AOCS since 1984.

The majority of his career was spent at Unilever, followed by Marrickville. He also served as a consultant for the New Zealand Dairy Board with a focus on pastry butter and for Abels, New Zealand with a focus on pastry margarine.

In retirement, Hyam focused on dry refining of oils using calcium hydroxide instead of sodium hydroxide. Hyam also had a number of patents awarded to him.

His legacy in the field of fats and oils will be remembered for generations to come.

Monday, July 27, 2020

There is still time to nominate for the 2021 AOCS Awards Program

The deadline is closing soon for professional awards in the 2021 AOCS Awards Program like the Stephen S. Chang Award, Supelco AOCS Research Award and Alton E. Bailey Award. Get your nominations in for these awards by August 1.

Check out all of the awards at

This is your opportunity to spotlight the individuals and companies that make a difference in the oils, fats, proteins, surfactants and related industries!

By nominating, you can help AOCS celebrate the individuals and companies that make outstanding contributions to science, technology, industry and our Society. These nominations help build a more supportive community and generally better the fields relevant to you by raising the standards of excellence for all.
Who will you nominate for outstanding contributions?

Start the nomination process:
  1. Read the full award descriptions and eligibility requirements at
  2. Complete the Professional Awards Nomination Form or the Student Awards Application Form.
  3. Submit the nomination/application form and supporting materials as PDF or Word Document files to There is no application form for Travel Grants - please continue to submit these application materials to
  4. Email Victoria Santo at, if you have any questions.
Deadlines for nomination submissions:

Health and Nutrition Division New Investigator Research Award Feature – Dr. Andrew Clulow

Q&A with Dr. Andrew Clulow, winner of the Health and Nutrition Division New Investigator Research

A brief bio: I am an ARC DECRA Fellow based at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences  (MIPS), where I have been researching the influence of lipid digestion on the fate of oral delivery vehicles for lipophilic bioactives since 2016. My research to date has involved synthesis and materials characterization in a diverse range of applied chemical systems including explosives sensors, plastic solar cells, OLED displays, bioelectronic semiconductors, intestinal colloids and digesting lipids. Whilst these may seem to be quite disparate areas of interest, the unifying element is that each material relies on appropriate structuring at the molecular, aggregate, or thin film level, to fulfill their function. As such, my research heavily utilizes neutron, X-ray and light scattering techniques to build a holistic structural picture of applied materials in the Ångstrom-micrometre size range. My DECRA fellowship aims to mimic lipid self-assembly in digesting milk fats and to shed light on how nature has optimized its most complete nutrition source for the delivery of fatty nutrients to infants. 

Living in Australia, I like getting outdoors to the beach or the bush with my wife, Karyn, and sons, Cameron and Matthew. Since I was a kid I’ve loved hiking and particularly in England’s Lake District close to my home town of Preston. Being originally from the UK, I like to home brew something approximating real ales in what spare time I can find, to recreate the tastes of my youth Down Under.

1) How did it feel to win the Health and Nutrition Division New Investigator Research Award?

I was quite taken aback! It was a great surprise that came rather out of the blue. Being such a new member of a community, I didn’t expect to receive such an accolade, but it is fantastic that the AOCS has such awards for young and emerging researchers. I feel really welcomed and valued by a community I have recently joined, which is a terrific feeling.

2) Can you tell us about your current research?

Digestion of triglycerides in our small intestines generates monoglycerides and fatty acids. These amphiphilic digestion products self-assemble in aqueous media to form liquid crystalline phases and interact with bile to form mixed micelles that aid lipid absorption. My current research combines neutron and X-ray scattering techniques with nutrient activity measurements to study molecular self-assembly of digesting milk integrating with biliary emulsions and the resulting impacts on nutrient release. Lipid digestion plays a key role in delivering fat-soluble nutrients to newborns and has also been shown to enhance the solubility of lipophilic drugs during digestion, which improves their bioavailability. Through my research, I hope to begin piecing together the composition-structure-function relationships behind milk's ability to effectively deliver lipophilic bioactives to infants.

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

Largely by chance. I found myself in between post-doctoral positions working as a part-time manuscript editor, which helped to broaden my horizons a bit. A friend in the neutron scattering community sent me a job advertisement for a position studying lipid structuring in milk during digestion. 

I had little experience in that materials space, having studied plastic electronic materials (explosives sensors, plastic solar cells, OLED displays etc.) for the previous seven years. However, my skill set in wet chemistry, colloid/interface science and neutron/X-ray scattering lined up perfectly with the requirements for the position. 

Milk is such a fundamental and everyday part of life that I thought “surely we know most of what there is to be known about milk”. A little reading showed me how wrong I was and since being offered the position I haven’t looked back. I haven’t had time to while wading through milk’s lipid complexity. It was a leap out of my comfort zone but one I’m glad I took.

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

On a personal level, trying to solve the so-called “two body problem” with a spouse who is also a scientist. About five years ago my wife Karyn became a patent examiner, whilst I have pursued my research career. At various points, this meant that we were living apart for long periods between Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne. We still managed to get married during this time and, shortly after, both moved to Melbourne and were able to start our family together. 

On a professional level, shedding some of the self-doubt that comes with being a younger member of a laboratory or organization. The realization that, despite the fact I’m new in the field, my insights can still be valuable because experience and viewing issues from a different perspective can play a large role in this regard. 

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?

Network, network, network. Networking opportunities weren’t as readily available in my PhD lab as they are in my present position. I was a relative unknown in the organic electronics field I was working in, let alone the lipids field I have now moved into since 2016. Getting myself out there, to as many local conferences as I could (bearing in mind Australia’s relatively large separation to the rest of the world) undoubtedly helped in my getting greater recognition from my peers when it came time to applying for jobs or funding. If people know you and think you’re good at what you do then when applications land on their desk, they’ll begin with a positive impression, which can work wonders.

6) How has AOCS helped you in your career?

Having only been a member for a short time, I haven’t had a chance to tap into many of the people of AOCS yet, although I’m looking forward to doing so next year. The Lipid Library and other online resources are a wealth of knowledge, I would highly recommend them to anyone breaking into the field, I wish I’d had access to them when I first started working with lipids. 

I read INFORM magazine and inform|connect Open Forum with great interest; coming from the academic side of the street, these resources give me more of an industrial perspective on lipid-related research. This is becoming more important when seeking academic grant funding in Australia (and I assume globally), tax payers want to see a commercial output or application for their investment and impact is no longer simply measured by citation metrics but the potential for genuine consumer benefit. 

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

I hope to be in a research position, preferably with a teaching component as I think teaching helps you to refine your ideas to a lay audience and keeps you honest on the fundamentals. Clearly, the biggest challenge facing the higher education sector at the moment is the COVID-19 pandemic. Universities globally are having to drastically change their teaching models and are suffering extreme loss of revenue due to the lack of student migration. 

There are serious questions being asked about what the future of lecturing holds and in some cases the viability of universities in a post-COVID world depending on how long it takes international travel return to pre-COVID levels. These issues are of course not unique to universities and many people, young and old, will be worrying about their employment future or indeed may already have lost their jobs or had their career ambitions frustrated. This may close some doors as certain types of employment may not be available for some time but I’m confident that with the adaptations we’ve seen during the pandemic already, other doors will open. 

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

Do what you do well and believe in your work, if you don’t believe in it why will anyone else? Don’t just understand the output of what you’ve done but how the process/technique works, life is not a black box. Be flexible and agile to solve complex problems, think sideways if you can’t bust straight through a problem and think in terms of what you know and not what you don’t. 

Have a support network of friends and family and be there for them as they are there for you, we all have bad days irrespective of career stage. Finally, don’t let opportunities that come your way pass you by, they may never come around again.

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

So far, AOCS has helped me by giving me a different (more industrial) perspective on the utility of oils and fats and giving me a new network of experts to tap into. Ideas come from expanding your knowledge and the AOCS has certainly helped me to do that. I look forward to many more developments to come as we get to meet face-to-face again.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Welcome new members to the AOCS community

AOCS gained 24 new members in June and we want to give them a warm welcome.

These incoming members are an incredibly global bunch, including those who call New Zealand, Peru, Nigeria, Japan and the US home. 87% work in industry and 13% work in government and academia.

Many of these members work at companies familiar to AOCS, including Wilmar Shanghai Biotech Research & Development, Stratas, Kalsec, Eurofins, Bunge and Blue Diamond Growers. We also gained members from companies that are newer to the Society, like Motif Foodworks, Potencial Biodiesel LTDA, Sanimax and Face Edit Medical Spa. Plus, some of our new members are affiliated with academic institutions such as Federal University, Dutse, Nigeria; University of California, Davis, USA; and St. Francis Xavier University, USA.

Members can learn more about incoming members in the Premium Content Library.

30% of these members joined as a result of their involvement with the Lab Proficiency Program and five of our new members came to us as a result of their participation in the Approved Chemist Program. Another 38% became members after joining us for the virtual annual meeting.

Thanks to Eddie Baldwin, of Stratas Foods, and Doug Bibus, AOCS President, for participating in our refer-a-friend membership program and bringing colleagues into the fold of the AOCS community.

Both long-time and new members can participate in our refer-a-friend program and get rewarded for introducing colleagues to AOCS. For every member you recruit in 2020, you will get a $20 gift card (up to $100). Visit the “Recruit Members” page on for a downloadable recruitment toolkit.

Plus, now is a great time to join AOCS with our special summer member offer, which gives you a 35% discount on membership when you join before August 21. Just use code SAVEAOCS35!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Ralph Holman Lifetime Achievement Award Feature – Dr. Richard Bazinet

Q&A with Dr. Richard Bazinet, winner of the Ralph Holman Lifetime Achievement Award

A brief bio: Dr. Bazinet received his BSc from the University of Western Ontario and completed his Ph.D. under the supervision of Dr. Stephen Cunnane at the University of Toronto in 2003.  Dr. Bazinet then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Dr. Stanley Rapoport's Brain Physiology and Metabolism Section at the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health.   Dr. Bazinet joined the University of Toronto in 2006, where he is currently a Professor and Canada Research Chair in Brain Lipid Metabolism.  Dr. Bazinet is the recipient of several awards, including the Early Career Award from the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids; the Jordi-Folch-Pi Memorial Award from the American Society for Neurochemistry; the Future Leaders Award from the International Life Sciences Institute,  the Young Scientist Award for the American Oil Chemists' Society and the Early Researcher Award from the Canadian Society for Nutrition.   

Dr. Bazinet sits on several editorial boards and is currently Editor-in-Chief of Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids as well as a Senior Associate Editor of Lipids.  The overall goal of Dr. Bazinet's research program is to identify the mechanisms that regulate brain lipid metabolism (signaling) and to identify the role of brain lipid metabolism in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases and neuropsychiatric disorders.  Dr. Bazinet has published over 150 papers, largely in the field of brain fatty acid metabolism and is co-author of the joint WHO/FAO joint expert consultation on dietary fats and the central nervous system during aging and disease.  Dr. Bazinet is currently the president of the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL). 

1) How did it feel to win the Ralph Holman Lifetime Achievement Award?

It was a real honor – shocking.  Ralph Holman was a giant in the field, and I have really enjoyed seeing the award lectures at previous AOCS meetings.  It is nice to have our work recognized. 

2) How did you get started in the field?

Upon completing an undergraduate degree in nutrition I was fascinated by metabolism, especially fat metabolism. I was lucky enough to continue down that path and to study fat metabolism as a Ph.D. student under the supervision of Stephen Cunnane and then combine that with a post-doctorate in brain metabolism with Stanley Rapoport. Now my lab specializes in questions around brain lipid metabolism. 

3) Can you tell us more about your current research?

My research has largely centered around examining the function of fatty acid in the brain.   We have been looking at fatty acid signaling in the brain, especially in the context of brain inflammation.  Another area of research that is related to nutrition is how fatty acid gets into the brain.  To address questions in these areas our lab has relied on sound analytical measures and kinetic techniques, areas we also make contributions to.  

4) What challenges have you overcome during your career?

When I started my career, the chance of receiving a major medical grant was just over 20%.  It is now about half of that. However, I was lucky to receive a Canada Research Chair that allowed the lab to purchase costly isotopes enabling us to answer tough questions.  I think the key is being interested in the question so much that you are willing to keep modifying the grant. 

5) What advice can you share?

This is a very different type of career. You really have to fall asleep and wake up thinking about the questions and how the experiments will answer them. I think that if you can find questions that truly captivate you, it should be easy to captivate others with the results of the experiments.  I was once told the key to a good research seminar is actually having a good question and a good approach. I think this applies not only to seminars but to careers.  

6) How has AOCS helped you in your career? 

AOCS has always been a great source of resources for me from the journal Lipids, where our lab frequently publishes papers, to attending the annual meeting. I was also an AOCS early career award recipient which was very important for receiving my tenure.   

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

AOCS Corporate Member Spotlight: Corbion

Sterling Bollman, the head of Advertising and Sponsorship Sales at AOCS, talked with Jim Robertson, the Commercial Director of the Emulsifier Business Unit of Corbion, a company based globally in Amsterdam and Lenexa, Kansas, USA. In this conversation, AOCS learned about innovations Corbion 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 Corbion.

Hello Jim and thanks for agreeing to be the next installment of our AOCS Corporate Member Spotlight series. Let’s start this off with the basics. What types of products and services does Corbion provide?

Of course! We’re always excited to help people learn more about what we do. In addition to being the global market leader in lactic acid and its derivatives and a leading provider of sustainable preservation solutions, Corbion offers a diverse emulsifier portfolio using a range of fat and oil sources to help us deliver the specific functionalities in both food and non-food applications. Our functional blends of emulsifiers and complimentary ingredients provide solutions that are both synergistic and convenient. Our emulsifiers and surfactants, along with achieving consistency and efficiency in food applications, also allow the creation of personal care products with fewer ingredients that are non-toxic, non-irritating to the eyes and skin and easy to incorporate into formulations.

Thanks for that background information. Now, there are other companies that specialize in emulsifiers around. What differentiates Corbion from your competitors in the same field?

For starters, few companies have the kind of heritage in emulsifier technologies that Corbion has; in fact, we invented lactylates in the early 1950s, commercialized hydrated monoglycerides and developed award-winning Trancendim® crystal modifiers. Perhaps most important, however, is the way Corbion has used that heritage to provide leadership in the industry, as we did by proactively moving to eliminate all partially hydrogenated oils from our product portfolio before most others did. We have also helped lead the effort to drive sustainability improvements throughout the value chain because it is the right thing to do for the industry and the planet. As an industry leader, we have resisted the temptation to rest on our laurels; we have continually invested in research to keep the leading edge of emulsification technologies moving forward.

That’s interesting and good to know Corbion is such a leader in its field! With how much emphasis you put on staying on top, there’s bound to be some innovations coming from your company. What are some recent innovations you and Corbion are proud of? 

There are three major innovations that come to mind when thinking of what I’m proud we offer at Corbion.
  • While our Trancendim® emulsifiers are hardly new, they do play a big part in the ongoing innovation taking place around the world as companies use them to solve the challenges that come with removing trans fats from food products. This lipid structuring system also helps them reduce saturated fat content and increase throughout the manufacturing of margarines and shortenings As more countries make the move to create healthier diets, our crystal modifiers continue to be an important enabler of those innovations. 
  • When the FDA set a June 2018 deadline for the removal of all PHOs, Corbion beat that deadline by nearly a year and a half. We chose to lead the transition, developing and launching a complete, non-PHO portfolio of emulsifier solutions and giving its customers greater confidence and more time to make the transition themselves. 
  • Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do at Corbion and our emulsifier platform is no exception. We’ve been members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil since 2005 and are part of the North American Sustainable Palm Oil Network, helping drive the adoption of sustainable practices throughout the value chain. As of 2020, all Corbion products containing palm oil and its derivatives are RSPO Mass Balance Certified. The company also earned a 2019 Gold Sustainability rating by Ecovadis and was in the top three percent of all suppliers assessed worldwide in its sector. 
It seems like Corbion is really at the top of its field and prepared for any changes throughout the market, which leads me to my next question. How has the COVID-19 situation affected your company?

In terms of impact on our ability to supply our customers, the effects of the pandemic have been extremely minimal thankfully; however, that has come through a great deal of work on our part. Throughout the crisis, we have continually monitored the situation, staying in constant communication with our suppliers to anticipate possible supply issues and planning contingencies if any supplier would be unable to deliver on our agreements. But, as a global ingredient solutions provider, we have always taken a global view of our sourcing strategy. In the case of COVID-19, it has simply been a matter of staying on top of where the impacts have been on the rise and ensuring we have qualified alternative suppliers in regions dealing with less risk.
Still, there have been many challenges, such as keeping our employees safe and healthy, which is always a top priority. Travel bans have made it difficult to provide the level of technical services our customers are accustomed to and planning has been extremely difficult, given the unforeseen spikes in demand or the canceled orders when our customers have had to shut down due to infections in their plants. Historical data simply does not apply when navigating uncharted territory such as this. Our flexibility, agility and non-traditional ways of interacting with our customers have been critical in responding quickly to an ever-evolving pandemic environment.

With so much uncertainty floating around, what do you foresee being some challenges for Corbion in the next year?

The clean-label movement continues to be a challenge for us in our emulsifiers business, despite the value and benefits we can deliver through those solutions. Right or wrong, consumer perceptions of emulsifiers as something they should avoid for health reasons continue to prevent growth in that market. However, every challenge presents and opportunity and this is no different. Corbion is well-positioned to support our customers with other platforms such as enzyme solutions and other clean-label technologies.  Our functionality systems and high-value blending capabilities also contribute to strengthening our clean-label portfolio, move into new categories and expand geographically.

Well, Jim, this has been an enlightening conversation and I have learned so much more about Corbion and what your company provides. Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule! I have one more question before we wrap things up. Why is being an AOCS Corporate Member important to Corbion?

Sustainability and innovation are at the heart of what we do at Corbion. The only way for us to continue finding better, more sustainable solutions to the world’s challenges is to remain committed to ongoing research and innovation. I think I speak for everyone when I say the fastest way to innovate is to partner with the right minds. We need to collaborate, share insights and blend areas of expertise in ways that create breakthroughs. We must stay open to learning from one another and the AOCS community is one that time and again, helps to facilitate that openness.

Thanks for reading thanks to Jim Robertson and his colleagues at Corbion for taking part in our AOCS Corporate Member Spotlight Series. Make sure to visit their website and connect with them on LinkedIn! Join us next time to see who we feature next!

Monday, July 20, 2020

Biotechnology Division Ching Hou Biotechnology Award Feature – Dr. Jun Ogawa

Q&A with Dr. Jun Ogawa, winner of the Biotechnology Division Ching Hou Biotechnology Award

A brief bio: Jun Ogawa is a Professor at the Division of Applied Life Sciences, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University since 2009. He studied fermentation physiology and applied microbiology and completed his doctorate in 1995 at Kyoto University. Professor Ogawa has published over 250 papers on the subject of applied microbiology such as bioprocess development, microbial metabolism analysis, etc. In 2004, he was awarded a prize for Encouragement of Young Scientists from the Japan Society for Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Agrochemistry. In 2015 and 2020, he was awarded the “Oleoscience Award” by the Japan Oil Chemists' Society. He served as a Director of the Japan Society for Bioscience, Biotechnology (2016-2018), and Agrochemistry and Chair of the Biotechnology Division of the American Oil Chemists' Society (AOCS) (2016-2017). 

1) How did it feel to win the Biotechnology Division Ching Hou Biotechnology Award?

I am very honored to receive this symbolic award, Ching Hou Biotechnology Award. I am grateful to the steering committee members of the Biotechnology division for giving me a chance. Special thanks to Dr. Ching Hou for introducing me to the world of AOCS. I greatly appreciate the support of my laboratory members. I hope I can continue to research and contribute to the further progress of the lipid biotechnology.

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

I studied fermentation physiology and applied microbiology and completed my doctorate in 1995 at Kyoto University under Prof. Sakayu Shimizu who was famous with discovery of an oleaginous fungus Mortierella alpina 1S-4. Under his supervision, I started researches on fermentative lipid production and lipid transformation by microorganisms/enzymes stemmed from screening of useful microorganisms. One of the interesting finding in the initial stage was lactic acid bacteria with conjugated linoleic acid forming activity via hydroxy fatty acid as an intermediate. Successive research on these microbial lipid metabolisms fascinated me very much and instilled a passion in me for further researches.

3) Can you tell us about your current research?

My current research interests are the screening and development of novel microbial functions useful for life sciences, food sciences, environmental sciences, and green chemistry, especially, fermentation physiology relating to functional lipid production.

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

It was very important during my research to find potential microorganisms from nature to understand the scientific basis and to apply to industry. I did my best to meet unique microorganisms with unexpected talent. These wonderful microorganisms guided me to new fields of sciences. So, my way of research is to communicate with microorganisms to become friends with them. Analysis of these microorganisms has provided me many scientific treasures.

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 very simple, but difficult to do. That is, be honest with collaborators, friends, and, especially, nature.

6) How has AOCS helped you in your career?

I was able to get acquainted with many talented and active researchers known worldwide in the field of lipid biotechnology thanks to AOCS activities. My experiences in AOCS have cultivated my philosophy in research, academia-industry exchange, and scientist's society management.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Join AOCS now through August 21 at the lowest membership rate!

If you have attended an AOCS event or joined a featured webinar, you already know about the comprehensive and collaborative resources AOCS provides to chemists like you. If you haven’t, you should register for an upcoming #WebinarWednesday, or access the Virtual 2020 AOCS Annual Meeting & Expo recordings for free to learn more about what AOCS has to offer.

AOCS is always looking to expand our community of scientific minds, and we want to make sure you know that you can access exclusive, cutting-edge content like INFORM magazine, AOCS Journals, the AOCS Webinar archive and more, for 35% off by becoming a member by August 21 and using code SAVEAOCS35.

By joining the AOCS community through the end of the year, you gain:

  • Insights into the latest trends in 10 extensive scientific areas to impact your research.
  • Global connections with experts and peers who share your focus.
  • Significant savings on collaborative events that bring together colleagues from around the world.
  • Exclusive access to compelling research through all AOCS journals, the Premium Content Library on inform|connect and a brand-new webinar library.

Why not spend the rest of the year tapping into support and guidance that has the power to strengthen your work? Join today.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Processing Division Virtual Round Table

Recently, the Processing Division hosted a virtual roundtable with attendees, both industry and academic professionals, from around the world, including the USA, United Kingdom, Austria, Columbia and Canada.

The virtual annual meeting was discussed. Overall, attendees expressed a very positive experience with the chat sessions, prerecorded presentations and poster galleries as well as the value of presentations being available on-demand until the 2021 Annual Meeting & Expo in Portland, Oregon, USA.

Usha Thiyam-Hollaender, vice chair, then facilitated an open and collaborative discussion on what topics Division members would like to see on the program for 2021. Some ideas discussed included renewable fuels, processing for health promotion, a joint session with Protein & Co-Products on processing considerations co-stream to mainstream, new and emerging technologies, processing basics – current and future opportunities, new trends in hemp and cannabis oil processing, and contaminants and environmental concerns.

In the coming weeks, the final Processing Division Program will be finalized, if you are interested in getting involved with planning the session, please contact Usha.

Attendees also discussed the future of short courses and the possibility of moving these online.

Overall, it was a friendly and productive gathering of members from around the world!

To get involved, contact:
William (Bill) Younggreen, Alfa Laval Inc., USA

To participate in annual meeting technical programming, contact:
Vice Chair
Usha Thiyam-Hollaender, University of Manitoba, Canada

To engage in upcoming networking events, contact:
Michael (Mike) Martinez, Natural Plant Products, Inc., USA

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Herbert J Dutton Award Winner Feature – Tom Brenna

Q&A with Tom Brenna recipient of the 2020 Herbert J Dutton Award

A brief biography: Tom Brenna, PhD, is Professor of Pediatrics, of Human Nutrition, and of Chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin since 2017, after 28 years as a Professor of Human Nutrition, and of Food Science at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. His group's research is on the chemical, biochemical, metabolic, genetic and ecological aspects of fatty acids. As an undergraduate he worked with the late Bob Jensen at the University of Connecticut, piquing an interest in fatty acids, and went to complete the PhD in Chemistry at Cornell.  After four years as a staff engineer at IBM's Technology Campus in Endicott, NY, he was hired as Assistant Professor at Cornell. 

His analytical chemistry research pioneered facile methods for the structure elucidation of fatty acid methyl esters, and independently developed some of the first molecular methods for high precision isotope ratio mass spectrometry, work that resulted in more than 30 peer-reviewed papers in Analytical Chemistry and other leading chemistry journals. The research group was among those contributing to the recognition that dietary omega-3 fatty acids are required for proper brain and retinal function in developing infants and, more recently, has been interested in the nutrition and metabolism of branched-chain fatty acids. His work has transformed our understanding of the fatty acid biochemical pathways, and genetics, recognized with the American Society for Nutrition's Osborne and Mendel Award for outstanding contributions to basic research in nutrition (2017) and the ASN's Robert Herman Award for the advancement of clinical nutrition (2013). 

1) How did it feel to win the Herbert J Dutton Award?

The award is a recognition of a rotating group of dedicated researchers with whom I had the privilege to interact over the years.  They all rightly are gratified by the recognition of our joint efforts.

Referring to his Nobel Prize, the physicist Richard Feynman remarked “The prize is the pleasure of finding the thing out, kick in the discovery, the observation that other people use it.”  The recognition of peers confirms not only that people use some and appreciate some of our innovations but regard them as among the important advances.  

For me, AOCS, as a society, means a lot to me because it was my first.  I recognized very early on that AOCS is a diverse professional society that brings together scientists, engineers, vendors, and businesses whose products and professions have an outsized influence on human health.  The Dutton award nomination process revealed deep respect for my contributions that I  honestly had not appreciated — the experience was simultaneously humbling and gratifying.  These nominations included some from senior members who were leaders when I was a kid.  After learning so much from them it is humbling to know that they have learned something from me.  To take a well-worn metaphor a step further, as we stand on the shoulders of giants – we occasionally can help the giants see new things themselves.

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

I walked into Robert Jensen’s Lipids Lab at the University of Connecticut – UConn – looking for a work-study job when I was a teenager and sophomore nutrition major in the late 1970s.  Bob immediately made me feel like a part of something, a lab family, because he included me in activities, both in and outside of the lab.  He and the senior lab members taught me something about lipid chemistry and especially lipid analysis. 

Dr. J, as I called him, had high standards for laboratory science.  When I was with him, he was in a scientific phase in which he was performing complex chemical synthesis of stereospecific triglycerides for eventual commercial sale.  He was often in the lab doing the syntheses himself and would grumble when administrative duties interfered.  He was also transitioning from the characterization of the lipids of bovine milk to the lipids of human milk, a field to which he contributed mightily in the last decades of the 20th century.

The AOCS meeting was the very first scientific conference I attended, with Bob.  He let me tag along everywhere, including memorable visits to the Supelco hospitality suite where I met Nick Pelick and others who were important to our field.  I found everyone to be inviting and professional, and they made me feel welcome.

Bob sent me to Cornell for grad school where I made my way to the Chemistry Dept.  There I had the good fortune to work with some of the analytical chemists who made definitive contributions to mass spectrometry, both inorganic and organic, over many decades.  

3) Can you tell us more about your current research?

Our research has been at the intersection of many varying fields:  nutrition and analytical chemistry, pure and applied nutrition, lipids in foods, in ecology and beyond.  I can highlight a couple.  

For many years we have been interested in fatty acid nutrition in classes best known and most obscure to the public, the omega-3 and branched-chain fatty acids, respectively.  We have worked out the biochemistry, molecular biology, and to a minor degree, the genetics of human biosynthesis of omega-3 DHA and omega-6 arachidonic acid.  Our analytical methods have enabled that work as they provide unambiguous structural assignments for fatty acids of minor abundance in complex mixtures.  

We have also been among the few groups globally to have studied saturated and monounsaturated branched-chain fatty acids found in milk and other foods, as a nutrient itself.  We have recently worked out the identity of genes responsible for their elongation and desaturation and confirmed/identified their structures.  

Along other lines, we are advancing the analytical chemistry of fatty acids, developing high sensitivity methods for rapid and positive structure elucidation of unusual unsaturated fatty acids; familiar examples would be conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) but there are many dozens too.  We, in human nutrition, have long felt that the cell and animal data support roles for these fatty acids, possibly of high value.  Analytical methods are one barrier to this research that we think we are currently making good headway.

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

From early on through the first half of my career, I was fortunate to find caring mentors and reasonable success in finding support for my work.  In the second half of my career, two particular black swan events hit that required near rebuilds of the program – an overnight loss of a research building affecting everyone in my college, and a decade later an accounting snafu affecting mostly our group – that required a fair amount of intestinal fortitude from which to recover.  But even in these events, there were silver linings.  In one case, we were able to conduct highly impactful human research that likely would not have been possible without a confluence of problems.  If I had to do it over again, I would probably want it the same way.

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?

Science is advanced chiefly by those obsessed with making sense of the world.  First is required a single-minded dedication to good technical measurements.  Everything starts there.  Second is an obsession for organizing empirical results into models accessible to the human mind – we call those theories.  Regularly asking yourself how you know the things you think you know, is paramount for discovering new things that no one knows.  How do you know the earth is not flat?  Explain the chemical steps leading free fatty acid content to determine, in part, an oil’s smoke point.  Work it out from first principles. Third, is an underlying recognition of the primacy of humanity, a desire to apply the best ideas to improve the human condition.  

These principles can be exercised in any career path – academics, government/non-profit, industry – though some jobs may not enable it.  Two examples from industry come to mind:

My first job out of grad school in 1985 was as a staff engineer-chemist for IBM.  To understand what IBM was then, imagine Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft as one company, with similar-sized profits.  Many of its alums and business connections developed the computing culture that we have now, even as the company faded from primacy.  IBM had a well-developed culture that emphasized inclusiveness and fairness to a far more refined degree than I saw in the academic world.  IBM was a good citizen, inside and out.  It developed computing from its origins in punch card-controlled textile looms to the mainframe and PC.  It emphasized respect for the individual as its first overarching principle.  And in my experience, it lived up to it.  

A second example was my work with industry on including omega-3 DHA in infant formula.  Despite the presence of DHA in all human milks globally, prior to 2001, no North American infant formula contained DHA.  With the support of academics, single-minded persons in industry brought that innovation to a reality, navigating the twists and turns of a regulatory landscape with innovation resistors in other parts of the industry, some still evident, who’ve “always done it this way”. 

Lessons learned? Excellence can be practiced anywhere and no career path has a monopoly on virtue.

6) How has AOCS helped you in your career?

AOCS brings together a community united around a common and vital class of chemical compounds, oils and fats. The society and its members are the stewards of a vast store of knowledge critical to humanity.  AOCS helps me because I know I can find whatever humans know about fats and oils somewhere in the society's orbit – journals, books, colleagues.  

Monday, July 13, 2020

Supelco AOCS Research Award Winner Feature – Dr. Michael Eskin

Q&A with Dr. Michael Eskin, winner of the 2020 Supelco AOCS Research Award

A brief bio: Dr. Michael Eskin, a professor at the University of Manitoba, is a Fellow of AOCS, IFT, CIFST, and the Institute of Food Science and Technology in the UK.  He is recognized for his work on edible oils and has played a key role in the successful development of canola oil. Michael has published over 250 research articles, book chapters, monographs, abstracts, and several patents. He has published 15 books including two on canola. Michael has also done extensive research on enzymes and gums as well as developed a number of colorimetric methods, including one for phytate that is still used worldwide. He recently celebrated his 50th year at the university where he served as Department Chair and Associate Dean. In 2017, he was selected by the students in his faculty as Professor of the Year. 

Michael is the recipient of many awards including the Order of Canada in 2016 for his contributions to the world-wide success of canola oil. He served as Chair of the Lipid Oxidation Division and was the first Chair of the Division council. In addition to serving as an Associate Editor of JAOCS, he was co-editor of Lipid Technology for 7 years and is Associate Editor of Education for the AOCS Library. Michael was the recipient of the Stephen S. Chang Award from IFT in 2012 and AOCS in 2018. He also received the Dutton Award in 2017, the Alton Bailey Medal in 2013, and the Timothy Mounts Award in 2007. He is well known for his Lipid Raps and just completed his latest one on Protein.

1) How did it feel to win the Supelco AOCS Research Award?

I was elated and overwhelmed as this is such an important award. The previous awardees are all world class leaders in their respective lipid fields and to be in such company is truly humbling. I remember in 1994 when the late Bob Ackman (a fellow Canadian) received the award, I just thought WOW what an achievement. Now, 26 years later, I find myself in the same wonderful situation, WOW!!!!

2) Can you tell us about your current research?

I am presently working on phenolics in canola and mustard with a particular interest in canolol. I am also part of a group studying the beneficial effects of DHA in reducing the impact of alcohol on fetal alcohol syndrome.  

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

When I joined the University of Manitoba, I started working on different plant lipases and lipoxygenases. I had the distinct privilege of working with the late Professor Marion Vaisey-Genser, an expert in sensory studies and a wonderful colleague, who took me under her wing and introduced me to this new oil that  two Canadian breeders (Keith Downey from Saskatchewan and Baldur Stefannson from Manitoba) were working on.  We worked closely together in establishing the compositional, functional and sensory properties of this amazing new canola oil. 

During a sabbatical in Israel at the Faculty of Agriculture of the Hebrew University in Rehovot, I collaborated with Chaim Frankel, on sabbatical from Rutgers University, on the aging of plants. He was using a titanium tetrachloride reagent to measure inorganic peroxides, as hydrogen peroxide was used in Geology for detecting titanium in rocks.  I wondered whether it would also measure organic peroxides and on my return to Canada tested my theory. To my surprise it only reacted with organic hydroperoxides which led to the development of a new rancidity method. It was my first paper in JAOCS and I still remember one of the reviewer’s comments. “Why on earth use rapeseed oil-it isn’t edible?” 

Although I have done a variety of different projects my major research was always focused on canola.  This involved work on the unexpected phenomenon of clouding or sedimentation which led to research on minor components. Breeders traditionally focus on modifying the fatty acids paying little attention to minor components, particularly the tocopherols.  I had a Master’s student study the effect of minor components on the frying stability of a variety of modified canola, soybean and sunflower oils. To our surprise we found that in many cases the tocopherol levels were not only lower but were also rapidly destroyed during frying. My student received an award from AOCS for this work at an Annual Conference and we published some of these results in the JAOCS

As a result of this work, a Consortium of Breeding Companies approached us to developing a rapid method for determining the stability of oil from breeder size samples. Using the Iatroscan we were able to develop a method, which I presented at AOCS (and received an Outstanding Paper Award) and later published it in the JAOCS. I continue working on different aspects of canola, both the oil and the meal.

4) What inspired you to create your renowned Lipids Raps?

I was trained as a professional singer and have performed both as a Cantor and folksinger. I wrote a song, "LET’S GO TO THE PARK" for Sesame Street Canada which was produced and shown on CBC  National Television. I then wrote and performed, with the help of my son Joshua, a children’s CD based on the Old Testament titled "MOSTLY GENESIS WITH A LITTLE EXODUS." The University of Manitoba heard it and was particularly taken with THE PESACH (PASSOVER) RAP and took me out on campus and made a video. They put it on YouTube and it became quite a hit with a lot of media attention.  I was later asked to prepare a poster for the AOCS Conference Education Section in 2012 and decided to do it in the form of a rap and titled it "LIPIDS GET A BAD RAP: IT ISN’T FAIR." My other son Ezra did the music. It was quite a hit and an AOCS staff made a video of me performing it at the conference. He put it YouTube and the rest is history. 

I have since made two more rap videos, "FATTY ACIDS, THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY" and "THE FAT SOLUBLE VITAMINS." They are used in University courses around the world. In 2016, I had a call from Professor Oleg Medvedev, Chair of Pharmacology at the School of Medicine, Lomonosov Moscow State University for permission to translate the raps into Russian and use them in his Non-Governmental Organization-National Research Centre: Healthy Nutrition. Last year he invited me to give a distant presentation at a Medical Conference in Siberia on the making of a nutrition rap. I also received an e-mail from Eduardo Dubinsky, the Founder and first President of the Argentine Society of Fats and Oils (ASAGA) and a former President of the Latin American Section of AOCS for permission to translate the lipid raps into Spanish for a class he teaches at a postgraduate college in Buenos Aires. 

In 2016, when I received the Order of Canada in Ottawa, the citation included a reference to my raps. The wife of the Governor General insisted I perform one at the evening dinner event which I did to a very receptive audience.  I have since prepared a PROTEIN RAP and the CD is ready for the video. Once I get back to the University of Manitoba when the pandemic is over, I hope to have the video completed. Links to the rap videos are: 

"Lipids Get a Real Bad Rap: It's Just Not Fair"
"The Fat-Soluble Vitamin Rap"
"Fatty Acids: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly"

They can also be accessed via the AOCS Lipid Library where I describe the making of my first rap video.

5) Can you tell us more about your current research?

For the last 10 years I have been on a reduced appointment but still teach a couple of courses. I have been collaborating with Dr. Usha Thiyam-Hollander studying phenolics in canola, particularly canolol. We are also looking at more effective ways to extract phenols because of their antioxidant and anticancer properties. Recently, we have expanded our work to include mustard as well. I have also been working with Dr. Miyoung Suh on nutritional strategies to reduce the impact of alcohol on the development of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I still collaborate with Dr Steve Cui at Agriculture Agri-Food Canada in Guelph on yellow mustard gum.

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

I have been very fortunate in my career in having a wonderful supervisor and mentors. My Ph.D at Birmingham University was in toxicology examining the formation of mercapturic acids in animals fed a series of different alkyl halides. My supervisor, the late Dr. Sybil James, was a wonderful and brilliant woman who did her Ph.D at Birmingham University under Professor William Norman Howarth. Dr. Howarth was an eminent carbohydrate chemist who, together with Albert Szent-Gyorgi,  received the Nobel Prize in 1937 for co-discovering Vitamin C. 
After completing my Ph.D I was determined not to spend my career sacrificing animals and decided to switch to Food Science which was my first position at the Borough Polytechnic (now known as Southbank University). I was never short of ideas, so the challenge was to get funding to test those ideas.  The University of Manitoba, through the Faculty Deans and Department Heads, have always been very supportive of my work. I never considered that being a Professor was a job. For me it was something I loved to do and being paid was a real privilege.  In my long career, like life, there are highs and lows, but working with students you never get bored and there are so many new discoveries being made that the challenge is to try and keep up  with everything.

7) 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?

 I have always had a very strong work ethic and my career has been guided by the following principle. Time is very precious, so never start anything that you don’t plan to finish. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and find colleagues to collaborate with, as today’s problems are multidimensional.  

Don’t be scared, when I started in Food Science there were very few textbooks and to even think of writing one at the start of my career seemed rather premature. Nevertheless, I prepared a proposal for a book titled Biochemistry of Foods which was accepted by Academic Press and I pulled in a couple of colleagues as co-authors. During the first year at the University of Manitoba I had no lab as the building was in progress so I spent a good part of the time preparing my courses and completing the book which was published in 1971 on my 30th birthday. It got wonderful reviews and was translated into German, and Japanese.  I have since published 15 books with the 16th book on Enzymes, with Professor Selim Kermasha of McGill University, almost ready to go to the press. At the same time, I was able to establish a very strong research program and was very lucky to receive financial support from the major granting agencies.  I have had wonderful graduate students, technicians, postdocs, research associates and visiting professors from India and China. 

What is really important is to create a balance between work and family. I have been blessed with a wonderful supporting wife and together we raised four boys.  Fortunately, none of them were early risers so I was able to maintain my writing schedule by getting up around 5:00 a.m. every morning. This gave me a minimum of 2-2.5 hour every day to work on projects. This pattern has never changed as I still get up every morning to do my writing. I have been on a reduced appointment since 2010 but have since published five books (the sixth one is almost ready) as well as many chapters and research papers. Saturday is the one day in the week that I don’t do any writing but still get up early, read the newspaper and then go off to the Synagogue. At least that was the pattern before the pandemic.

8) How has AOCS helped you in your career?

AOCS has been incredibly helpful in my career. I  have had wonderful mentors and colleagues, many of whom I have collaborated with.  My introduction to AOCS was by Timothy Mounts who invited me to   speak at a symposium at my first AOCS conference in New York. It was a wonderful experience and, as a result, I came to the conference every year and volunteered in the Lipid Oxidation and Quality Section   where I organized the program, became deputy chair, then chair. When the divisions were established, I was elected the first chair of the Division Council. I have served on a number of other committees, organized symposium, chaired sessions as well as served as Associate editor of JAOCS before I accepted a position as co-editor of Lipid Technology. I currently serve on several selection committees as well as Associate Editor of Education for the AOCS Lipid Library.  In addition, my graduate students have also benefited from attended AOCS, some of whom won awards for their work. In the fats and oil area, this is the professional organization that fosters interaction between academics, industry and Government researchers in a wonderful stimulating and friendly environment.  The professional staff at AOCS are to be commended for making it an organization that you want to be associated with.  

Check out the AOCS Awards video featuring Dr. Eskin: