Q&A with Honored Student Award Winner: Yang Lan
Bio: Yang Lan is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the cereal and food science program at North Dakota State University (NDSU). He is on track to graduate in 2020 and has done an excellent job in his academic studies, receiving A’s in all 11 required courses in the past three years. So, his current career plan is continuing to finish his doctoral research project, which focuses on the phase behavior of concentrated pea protein isolate-pectin mixture and their application. He has published 15 peer-reviewed articles and given more than 12 academic presentations at professional meetings such as the AOCS and IFT annual meetings. Yang has received both a travel grant and the Honored Student Award from AOCS as well as several graduate scholarships from IFT. Yang has been an active member in AOCS’ Protein and Co-Products (PCP) division since 2017 and is a member of the AOCS Student Common Interest Group.
1) What was your reaction when you learned you won Honored Student Award Winner?
I was extremely excited when I saw “congratulations” in the email from Victoria. I checked my inbox quite often since the award application had been submitted two months prior. This award is quite important for me since AOCS has now rewarded me for my hard work and helped me to present at the 2020 AOCS Annual Meeting & Expo. I would like to thank the AOCS foundation for its generosity and support. With this recognition, I am further motivated to work hard and make cereal and food chemistry my career after graduation. I hope one day I will be able to help students achieve their goals just as AOCS has helped me.
2) How did you get started in the field that you are studying?
I started my bachelor’s study in food quality and safety at Xichang College, then completed a three-year master’s training in food science at Southwest University. As I learned more about food science through experiments and lectures during my college years, my interest in pursuing further food science studies continued to grow. Therefore, after completing a graduate degree in China, I was lucky enough to start an overseas Ph.D. program in cereal and food science at NDSU in 2016.
3) What challenges have you overcome during your course of study?
At the beginning of my overseas studies, language was the biggest challenge that I had to work hard to overcome. The demanding requirements of listening, reading, speaking and writing in a nonnative language challenged me a lot when I first started this program. My solution to overcome this challenge was practice, practice, practice! I think it’s clear how much practice paid off for me, given the A’s I received in all required courses during my course of study.
4 Do you have any words of wisdom for other AOCS student members?
AOCS membership is incredibly valuable for student members since it provides us with the latest information on food science through the weekly Inform SmartBrief as well as a way to join open discussions through inform|connect. These resources help us understand emerging events, trends and innovations; they also broaden our horizons in the food science industry. Moreover, AOCS membership provides us opportunities for volunteering, such as with the Student Common Interest Group, and networking opportunities at the AOCS Annual Meeting and Expo, which is certainly helpful in connecting with peers and professionals, and to develop our leadership and networking skills.
5) How has winning the AOCS Honored Student Award Winner helped you develop as a young scientist
Winning the AOCS Honored Student Award is such an honor for me since it is an evaluation and recognition of my dedication and rigor. Plus, having external recognition of my work will translate to praise and respect among my food science peers. Winning this award will encourage me to continue working hard in my graduate research program and to try my best to serve the food science industry in the near future. After graduation, I plan to find a post-doc research position in this area of focus since I have a strong commitment to contributing to the body of cereal and food chemistry research as my career.
6) Can you tell us about your current research?
The world demand for protein is expected to increase due to population growth. The use of alternative proteins in food applications is crucial to meet demand. However, plant proteins are still used in limited food applications due to their low solubility, lack of functional properties, their off-flavor and taste. The goal of my research is to improve the functionality and flavor profiles of plant proteins, such as pulse and flaxseed proteins, through combined structural modification technologies (soluble complex and solid dispersion). This research has three main objectives: (1) To characterize denaturation profile, structure, functionality and negative tastes of extracted pulse proteins from pulse flour and flaxseed proteins from protein-rich flaxseed meal (oil extraction coproduct). (2) To structurally modify the proteins using soluble complex and solid dispersion technologies for improving functionality and flavor profiles. (3) Evaluation of thermal stability and other functionalities of the modified proteins in model beverage systems.