Saturday, September 25, 2021

Member Spotlight: Saoussane Khalifa

Saoussane Khalifa
Saoussane Khalifa is a Ph.D. student at the Laboratory of Food and Biodynamic Chemistry, Graduate School of Agricultural Science at Tohoku University, Japan. In her current research, she studies in-depth lipid oxidation mechanisms and their products both in vivo and in vitro. She mainly focuses on the structural elucidation of novel lipid primary and secondary oxidation products using LC-MS/MS, NMR, derivatization reactions (and sometimes chemical calculations), the exact mechanism of their formation, and their presence and effect on healthy organisms as well as their relation to altered health conditions. 

She participated in the 2021 AOCS Annual Meeting and was awarded first place in the LOQ Student ePoster Pitch Competition on her finding of novel squalene cyclic peroxides on the human skin and their effect on skin cells. She is a member of the AOCS Lipid Oxidation and Quality (LOQ) Division.

Can you tell us about your research?

Currently, I am working on skin lipid oxidation and its relation to skin disease. The identification of novel oxidation products through classic and new methods is a crucial part of my study. In addition, the determination of the oxidation mechanism involved in their formation is essential, as it is the key to finding suitable methods to stop and reverse the health adverse effects that these products might cause. 

Previously, I demonstrated the formation and existence of novel squalene cyclic peroxides on the human skin and their harmful effect on skin cells. Currently, I’m continuing on the elucidation of other novel oxidation products on the human skin and their analysis and relation to patients with skin abnormalities. I am also working on lipid oxidation in edible oils and supplements with a focus on identifying primary and secondary oxidation products and the mechanism leading to the formation of each class of oxidation products.

How did you react to winning first place at the LOQ Student ePoster Pitch Competition?

As I have been working on the project that I presented for nearly three years, the news felt like a reward not only for a world-renowned conference, but also for very long and hard work that closed the first chapter of my project. I was deeply honored and grateful. It also gave me the push and encouragement that I needed to follow up and start on the second chapter of my project. The award made me realize that hard work will always achieve good results and will be at the end recognized by a well-qualified scientific community.

What are you hoping to get from LOQ in the future?

Although I enjoyed all of the content presented in the LOQ sessions at the 2021 AOCS Annual Meeting, I hope to see more reports on novel oxidation products. I also hope to see more involvement of physical chemistry in the field as it will allow us to better understand the underlying mechanisms involved in the appearance of specific lipid oxidation products.

What are your hobbies and how did Covid-19 change your (work)life?

I enjoy reading books in general and science fiction/mystery books in particular, philosophy books once in a while. One of my passions is learning new languages. Aside from learning Japanese, I recently started learning Korean. It helped a lot during the lockdown!

I enjoy outdoor activities, working out, meeting new people, listening to music, watching movies and cooking.

Covid-19 has taken a toll on everyone, but I think that the research/educational sector was one of the most affected areas. Thanks to virtual communication, researchers (including me!) still had a chance to communicate, for example at AOCS events. But it definitely put on hold and regressed a lot of my work, especially during the lockdown, which made me appreciate even more the chance I have now to do research .

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