Friday, February 19, 2021

Spotlight on Reed Nicholson 2021 AOCS Honored Student

Reed Nicholson is a PhD candidate in the Department of Food Science at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. As an undergraduate student in the BSc Food Science program at Guelph, Reed began working in Professor Alejandro Marangoni’s lab and later started his graduate studies in 2017. Reed has been a member of AOCS a total of six years.

What is your current research focus, and what major challenges is this work trying to address?

My current research focus is structuring liquid oils into solid fats using enzymatic glycerolysis to produce partial acylglycerols, which are naturally present in liquid oils at low concentrations. Structuring through this reaction takes advantage of the higher crystallization and melting points of the mono- and diacylglycerols relative to triacylglycerols, with no change in the fatty acid composition of the starting oil. This work addresses two major challenges that the food industry currently faces. The first being to reduce the saturated fat content of solid fats which are commonly used as food ingredients, as saturated fat is necessary to provide structure to the lipid components of foods, but is associated with negative health effects. The second challenge is related to the sustainability of formulating foods with tropical oils. Because of its high saturated fat content and associated functional properties, palm oil is used in a wide range of food applications. Our research is also looking to produce a viable alternative to palm oil using liquid oils from domestic crops modified to have similar functionality to that of palm.

How has AOCS influenced your career development?

The AOCS Annual Meeting has played a big role in my career development as it gives me a yearly opportunity to present my research to experts in the field of lipid science. These interactions have provided me with valuable feedback on my work, and have greatly improved my presentation skills and overall confidence as a researcher. The Annual Meeting has also allowed me to build great connections and friendships with other researchers, and by attending the meetings I am able to learn from the best minds in lipid science and stay up to date on developments in the field.

What do you like to do in your spare time? 2020 was a very different year for everyone… did you pick up any new hobbies?

I really enjoy spending my spare time outdoors. Whether it be hiking with my dog, trail running, or stand-up paddle boarding. Reading and cooking are also activities I spend a lot of my free time engaged in. While it was a strange year, 2020 was a good year for at-home hobbies. During this time, I have been learning to play guitar, and my baking skills have improved immensely.

And finally, what is your favorite type of cookie?

Although there are a lot of cookies that I like, I would have to say that my favorite is the black and white cookie, which is a Seinfeld staple native to New York City. These cookies are basically the lovechild of a cookie and a cake. And I have learned this year that they are surprisingly easy to bake at home.

Meet our honored student and learn about his research

Reed Nicholson will be presenting a paper on Engineering lipid structure with enzymatic glycerolysis at the AOCS Annual Meeting & Expo, May 3-14, 2021.

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