Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Health and Nutrition Division member spotlight on Professor Ignacio Vieitez

Prof. Dr. Ignacio Vieitez
is a Full Research Professor at the Department of Science and Food Technology, School of Chemistry, Universdad de la República (UdelaR) in Montevideo, Uruguay. He received his Ph.D. in Chemistry at the UdelaR, Uruguay. His main area of research includes new green extraction processes based on the use of compressed fluids to isolate bioactive compounds from natural sources such as food and agricultural by-products and plants. Dr. Vieitez's recent project  focused on the inhibitory effects of Cannabis flower extracts, obtained by supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2) with and without modifier, on various human tumor cells and non-tumor cells. 

Dr. Vieitez has been an AOCS member since 2010 and joined H&N in 2014. He has served as a session chair for oral and poster sessions at past AOCS annual meetings and will serve again for the 2021 annual meeting. 

Read more about Dr. Vieitez in this recent interview with H&N newsletter editor, Kacie Ho. 

1) What do you love most about your job?

I like research for various reasons…mainly the opportunity to participate in different projects and the opportunity that it offers to meet new researchers and to be able to participate in groups from which you always learn. Research is constantly pushing the frontiers of knowledge. Every new project not only provides insights, answers and details, it also poses new questions. Research is challenging. Sometimes, experiments do not go as well as planned or give you unexpected results. And that is okay; in these cases, you are given the opportunity to question the process, make changes and to think beyond. Research stretches your mind It also challenges and tests you to think of new ideas, new reasons and new possibilities. Research can offer the opportunity to present your studies to colleagues at conferences, to meet other researchers like yourself and to participate in great events.

2) Describe your research/work and explain what big problem your work is trying to solve.

Antioxidants are a specific area of research by themselves because of their role in health. 

Utilization of synthetic antioxidants in foods is mostly limited because consumers are increasingly demanding additive-free or natural products. Obtaining natural antioxidants from natural sources is not an easy task since the extraction and purification processes must be developed in order to decrease the possibility of degradation. 

Our group develops new environmentally clean processes (i.e., mild conditions to avoid degradation of antioxidants) to obtain new antioxidant products using natural raw materials. Extraction of natural products with supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2) has gained increasing attention from the food industries because conventional methods involve solvents that are inflammable and/or toxic and high temperatures that could degrade products of interest and produce impurities while CO2 is considered a GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) substance and the technology involved uses moderated conditions.

To help expand the discovery and utilization of new natural sources, we are developing methods to assess the antioxidant activity of new products. Agricultural food by-products can be a source of environmental problems but also a source of inexpensive raw material if high added value products can be obtained from them. Therefore, we have been working on the reutilization and optimization extraction procedures, for instance, olive oil by-products.

3) How has AOCS helped with solving challenges you encounter in your work and/or research?

AOCS has provided opportunities to meet professionals inside and outside of my research field. This has helped me to think about other applications and to be inspired by the ideas exchanged in the community. Also, AOCS membership has provided the possibility to develop new research projects in cooperation with experts in the topics.

4) Do you have any words of wisdom or suggestions for other AOCS H&N members or students who are aspiring towards their future careers?

I strongly recommend participating in various AOCS activities. My experience throughout these years has been excellent. AOCS members have the opportunity to expand their network and get connected with experts in different areas who are advancing the science of fats and oils, with a mix of professionals from industry and academia.

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