Friday, September 3, 2021

Member Spotlight: Dr. Mila Hojilla-Evangelista

Dr. Mila Hojilla-Evangelista is a Research Chemist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research. She has been a member of AOCS for more than 20 years and a member of the Protein and Co-Products Division for more than 7 years.

She was recognized as an AOCS Fellow in 2019.

Can you tell us about yourself?

I was born and raised in the Philippines, where I received my B.S. in Food Technology (Cum laude) and M.S. in Food Science from the University of the Philippines at Los Baños. I earned my Ph.D. in Food Technology from Iowa State University. I have been a Research Chemist for 20+ years at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois.

What is your involvement in AOCS and in the Protein and Co-Products Division?

I am currently involved in a number of ways: Chair or member, various AOCS selection committees; Associate Editor, JAOCS; and Protein and Co-Products Division Poster Session Chairperson.

Previously, I was Governing Board member-at-large; Guest Editor for the JAOCS Special Issue on alternative proteins; Protein and Co-Products Division Officer (Secretary/Treasurer, Vice-chairperson, and Chairperson), Technical Session Chairperson, and Student Poster Competition Chairperson/Lead Judge.

What are your research interests?

My research is on the development of novel, marketable commodities that utilize co-products, particularly the proteins, from the industrial processing of established agricultural crops, like corn and soybeans, and alternative oilseed crops, such as pennycress and lesquerella. I devise practical ways to extract and recover the proteins, assess their properties, and determine their suitability for various applications, such as in emulsifiers, foams, films, fibers, thickeners, and adhesives.

What does a typical day look like for you?

In my current detail as Acting Research Leader, I respond to messages, follow up on issues affecting my Unit, approve purchase requests, review manuscripts, proposals, procurement packages, or funds status, check with my technician for updates about ongoing experiments, analyze research data, write sections of a manuscript, complete any mandatory online trainings, or attend virtual meetings and seminars.

What excites you the most about your work?

Talking about being a scientist and/or my research and how our findings/discoveries find their way into people’s lives.

Can you share a turning point or defining moment in your work as a scientist and/or industry professional?

In October 2018, I received distinguished alumni awards from both of my alma mater (University of the Philippines at Los Baños and Iowa State University), and then not long after, I was notified of being selected AOCS Fellow. This cluster of awards recognized 30 years of scientific research career and contributions to my field.

How has the present COVID-19 situation affected your work?

The Covid-19 pandemic caused a significant setback for our research projects. We have been on maximum telework status since the lockdown, but a limited number of researchers have been allowed to do on-site work for nearly a year now. Occupancy limits are enforced, so the scheduling of entries in the building is closely monitored. Research progress has been slow as would be expected, given that researchers were not able to carry out experiments in the lab effectively.

What is the one thing that you are missing the most during this COVID-19 situation?

Visiting my Papa and siblings in the Philippines.

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