Friday, January 22, 2021

Usha Thiyam-Hollaender: In Memoriam

We wish to express our sincerest sympathies to the AOCS community and Dr. Usha Thiyam-Hollaender's family. By sharing memories of Dr. Thiyam-Hollaender we hope to keep her in the minds and hearts of the AOCS family.

About Dr. Usha Thiyam-Hollaender

Usha joined AOCS as a student member in 2003 while completing her Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Kiel, Germany. She continued as an individual member and after earning a position at the University of Manitoba, Canada, she became involved with the Lipid Oxidation and Quality Division, serving many years as the Vice Chair, where she helped develop the annual meeting programming. In the past two years, Usha took on the Vice Chair position within the Processing Division and up until her last days, she had AOCS activities on her mind.

Usha built a large and broad group of friends and colleagues from around the world. She will be missed by so many. 

Thoughts and memories from Usha's colleagues.

From N.A. Michael Eskin, University of Manitoba:

What a terrible loss as I served as Usha's mentor for the past 13 years. We worked so well together and became not only colleagues who respected each other, but were wonderful friends. She was a very bright and capable scientist who achieved a lot in her short career. We were planning a second book which sadly will now be done without her but dedicated to her.

From Roger Nahas, Kalsec®, Inc:

I was very saddened by Usha’s passing. She was a very kind, passionate, loyal and dedicated AOCS member. Her memory will live on through her scientific and academic contributions and certainly through her impact on colleagues and collaborators. 

From Jill Moser, USDA, Agricultural Research Service:

I believe the first time that I met Usha was at the 2007 AOCS annual meeting when she received the Edwin N. Frankel award for best paper in lipid oxidation and quality for her paper published in 2006 “Antioxidant Activity of Rapeseed Phenolics and Their Interactions with Tocopherols During Lipid Oxidation,” U. Thiyam, H. Stöckmann, and K. Schwarz (Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society 83(6):523–528). I was the chair of the award committee at that time and so had the opportunity to hand her the award. This was such a proud moment for her! This would have been my second year as a member of AOCS (my first annual meeting as a new USDA scientist was in 2005), and so I associate Usha with AOCS almost as if we were in the same grade or class level, moving through our professional lives together if that makes sense. 

I usually only saw Usha once a year, although she did come to visit our lab in Peoria once, we corresponded every few months and I considered her a friend and always looked forward to seeing her. We shared the experience of having young children and struggling with the balance of young kids and a career in science was something we could share with each other. She had the added challenge of also being a professor, balancing teaching, grant writing and mentoring graduate students. 

She was a dedicated AOCS and LOQ volunteer, and she held all of the positions on the LOQ leadership team, often we were on the team at the same time. Usha always had a lot of passion for her research and for improving AOCS and especially LOQ programs. She especially cared about opening up opportunities for student involvement. Usha had a quiet voice, but she was outspoken in her own way, she never had to be loud to have her voice heard. 

I was heartbroken to hear of her terrible and sudden illness and death. It is tragic for her family, especially, but also for her colleagues, students and friends. AOCS lost a great scientist, volunteer and friend. I will greatly miss seeing Usha at AOCS meetings, which is when I will feel her loss most. Her memory lives on in her children, in the students she mentored, and in her imprint on the Lipid Oxidation and Quality Division and other AOCS Divisions. I look forward to getting together in person to raise a glass in her honor and memory.  

From Amy Logan, CSIRO Agriculture and Food:

I first meet Usha through our mutual research interest in fats and oils at the AOCS annual meetings (back in 2007 or 2008) and have had the pleasure of meeting up with her at many of the AOCS annual meetings since on both a professional level and as friends. I am deeply saddened to learn of her sudden illness and her passing, and will dearly miss the bright energy and spark she brought to any conversation, and of course the opportunity to work together again in the future. 

There have been many opportunities where we had wonderful interactions over the years, having been active members of the LOQ Division at the same time (and working on the annual meeting program together, for example), collaborating through a couple of student projects in research that has helped build an understanding around the efficacy of phenolic antioxidants in canola oil systems, and as a speaker at the Canola Workshop, she had coordinated and hosted at the ‘Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals’ at her University of Manitoba in Canada, back in 2010. I believe she had been at the university for only a couple of years at this point, and I will be forever thankful for the opportunity this invitation provided me to visit Winnipeg and learn more about ongoing research at the Richardson Centre. 

The workshop itself was a great success, leading to the production of a book based on the proceedings (Canola and Rapeseed: Production, Processing, Food Quality, and Nutrition), which she edited along with Michael Eskin and Bertrand Matthäus, but my fondest memory of this visit was the personal touch Usha put into plans for welcoming the speakers, which included a lovely celebratory dinner with the full cohort, as well as opening her home and cooking a more intimate dinner for myself and a few others who had arrived a day before the workshop.  I will always remember Usha’s dedication to her research and the development of her students, through which her legacy and memory shall live on.

AOCS is truly a family. We hope to stay in touch with all our members. We share joys and successes, and sometimes we share grief. Feel free to join us in remembering Usha on inform|connect.

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