Thursday, September 9, 2021

Member Spotlight: Juhee Lee

Juhee Lee
Juhee Lee is a Ph.D. candidate in nutrition and food science at Utah State University. She also holds her B.Sc. in food science from Utah State University. She joined Dr. Silvana Martini's lab as an undergraduate researcher in 2016 and currently works as a graduate researcher. Her research focuses on the effect of high-intensity ultrasound on the physical properties of edible lipids and oxidative stability and bubble dynamics during sonication. Juhee is also the recipient of the 2021 Edible Applications Technology Division Student Excellence Award.

What is the main focus of your Ph.D. project?

My Ph.D. research focuses on the effect of high-intensity ultrasound (HIU) on edible lipids, which includes shortening (palm-based and soybean-based), soybean oil and structured lipids. HIU is a potential processing tool that can be utilized to create a product with desirable functional and physical properties of lipids by using ultrasonic waves of high intensity and frequency. However, the use of HIU on lipid systems is a contentious topic, as lipids can have varying degrees of oxidative stabilities, which HIU may potentially affect. Therefore, it is important to evaluate the effect of HIU on bubble dynamics, oxidation and physical properties of edible fat if changes generated due to sonication are maintained during long-term storage with different storage temperatures.

With this work, what major challenge(s) are you trying to solve?

Lipids are essential food components because they provide desirable functional and organoleptic properties. For example, certain fats such as partially hydrogenated oil (PHO), when incorporated into baked goods, create a product that has desired texture, crispness, and more resistance at high temperatures. However, the incorporation of PHO as a food ingredient has brought about concern from health officials in its effect on human health, which led to removing its GRAS status. Thus, research on developing new lipids with low levels of saturated fatty acids but still containing the desirable functional properties of PHO has been ongoing. HIU has been used to induce crystallization of lipids and improve the physical properties of fats by generating a harder and more elastic crystalline material, and producing a greater number of smaller crystals. Therefore, HIU is one potential technology that can be used to develop alternative PHOs.

What do you enjoy most about your research?

As part of my research, I measure the physical properties of sonicated and non-sonicated lipids using different equipment. Among them, I especially enjoy using a polarized light microscope to observe the crystalline structure of lipids. It is fascinating to see that each type of crystalline lipid has its own unique shape and size.

Finally, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I enjoy cooking, baking and watching Netflix during my free time.

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