Friday, October 22, 2021

Midweek mixer: Early career research professionals — Navigating career paths


Learn how to successfully navigate your career path in this upcoming mixer hosted by the AOCS Young Professional Common Interest Group.

Gain valuable insights about challenges that may arise while navigating your career path and resources to use that can help with this process. Hear personal experiences from seven well-known experts and young researchers from academia, government and industry.

When: Thursday, October 28, 2021, 11 a.m. CDT (Chicago, USA; UTC-5)

Register for free.




Philip Bates

Philip D. Bates, Washington State University, USA
Dr. Philip D. Bates’ laboratory focuses on the biochemistry and molecular biology of plant lipid metabolism leading to the biosynthesis of essential membrane lipids and oils. The long-term goal is to understand the control of lipid metabolic flux that can be used to engineer increased total oil and produce designer oil fatty acid compositions. His interest in plant biochemistry started as an undergraduate at the University of California Davis (2002), and his love of plant lipid metabolism began during graduate school in the lab of John Ohlrogge at Michigan State University (2008). He did postdoctoral research with John Browse at Washington State University. In 2013, he started a research group as an assistant professor at the University of Southern Mississippi. In 2014, he received the Paul K. Stumpf Award for Exceptional Early-Career Plant Lipid Scientist from the International Symposium on Plant Lipids, and in 2016 he received the Arthur C. Neish Young Investigator Award from the Phytochemical Society of North America. In 2018, Dr. Bates took an accelerated assistant professor position at WSU, moved his lab (including the people 2,400 miles), and was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2020.


Ed Cahoon, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA
Dr. Ed Cahoon is the George Holmes University Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Director of the Center for Plant Science Innovation at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). He has approximately 30 years of experience in plant biotechnology. He has used biotechnological tools for improving soybean oil composition as a scientist with DuPont Crop Genetics and USDA-ARS, before joining the UNL faculty in 2008. Dr. Cahoon has combined biochemistry and functional genomics to uncover metabolic pathways for high-value fatty acids, antioxidants, and carotenoids and has transferred these pathways to soybean to enhance oil value for emerging markets such as aquaculture feedstocks. He has more than 150 publications and 35 US patents in plant biotechnology and was a 2017 recipient of an honorary doctorate in plant breeding from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Dr. Cahoon received his B.S. in biochemistry from Virginia Tech, M.S. in plant physiology from Cornell University and Ph.D. in plant biochemistry from Michigan State University.



Matthew J. Fhaner, University of Michigan-Flint, USA
Dr. Matthew J. Fhaner is the chair of the Department of Natural Sciences at the University of Michigan – Flint (UM-Flint), where he has been a faculty member for 7 years. He is an associate professor of analytical chemistry. He teaches both lecture and laboratory classes in general chemistry and analytical chemistry focusing on quantitative and instrumental analyses. Dr. Fhaner’s research program focuses on identifying applications of electrochemical methods to the study of natural antioxidants and edible oil. 



Craig Byrdwell

W. Craig Byrdwell, USDA-ARS, USA
Dr. W. Craig Byrdwell is a research chemist at the Methods and Application of Food Composition Laboratory, part of the Agricultural Research Service, the research branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Dr. Byrdwell wrote his dissertation on identification of the “Unknown Phospholipid” in the human eye lens and quantification of fluorophores in normal and cataractous lenses. Dr. Byrdwell took a position at the USDA’s National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (ARS) and published the first report of analysis of triacylglycerols (TAGs) using HPLC with APCI-MS. Dr. Byrdwell took a position where he first and then routinely employed dual parallel mass spectrometers, using both APCI-MS and ESI-MS. He re-joined ARS in 2005 and has been analyzing fat-soluble vitamins and TAGs, combining three or four mass spectrometers employing complementary ionization methods (APCI-MS, APPI-MS and ESI-MS) coupled to one, two or three liquid chromatographs in multi-dimensional LCx/MSy techniques. Dr. Byrdwell has published more than 65 peer-reviewed articles, 10 book chapters and been editor and/or co-editor of three AOCS Press books. Dr. Byrdwell received the 2012 American Oil Chemists’ Society Analytical Division Herbert J. Dutton Award, presented the 2013 Society of Chemical Industry Julius Lewkowitsch Award Lecture and was awarded Fellow of the American Oil Chemists’ Society in 2019.


Tom McKeon

Tom McKeon, Formerly USDA, USA
Dr. Tom McKeon joined the USDA, ARS, in 1981 as a research chemist in the Postharvest Physiology and Chemistry Research Unit. Initially, his research involved fruit development and plant senescence. Later, his research turned to fatty acid and triacylglycerol biosynthesis in the castor plant. Much of his career was spent as a project leader, occasionally serving as an acting research leader and a brief stint as an acting assistant area director. Dr. McKeon retired in 2019. When Dr. McKeon started the research project on castor oil biosynthesis, he joined AOCS and the Biotechnology (BIO) Division. He has been involved in the BIO Division and AOCS since 1997.



Sidd Purkayastha

Sidd Purkayastha, PureCircle/Ingredion, USA
Dr. Sidd Purkayastha is head of Global Scientific and Regulatory Affairs of PureCircle/Ingredion and manages the PureCircle Science, Safety and Regulatory programs to drive the introduction of stevia in the food and beverage markets globally. Dr. Purkayastha is a research fellow in Ingredion R&D. With more than 30 years of experience in developing sweetener and carbohydrate technology for the reduced calorie and health and wellness area of food applications, Dr. Purkayastha joined PureCircle in 2009 to start the innovation and technical development and support team. He established PureCircle technical centers in the US, Europe and China; spearheaded business development in south-southeast Asia; and gained regulatory approval of new stevia sweeteners and flavors around the world. He works closely with major food companies and regulatory authorities to address technical and regulatory issues on stevia. Dr. Purkayastha authored more than 10 peer-reviewed research articles and numerous publications in trade journals on applications, safety and metabolism of steviol glycosides. A large number of U.S. and international patents on stevia technology have been awarded to Dr. Purkayastha. He graduated with a B.Tech from the I.I.T, Kharagpur (India), M.S. and M.B.A. from the University of Illinois and Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.


Sarah Willett
Sarah Willett, Kerry, USA
Dr. Sarah Willett is currently an RD&A scientist on the Process Innovation Team at Kerry in Beloit, WI. Her role focuses on improving current processes and investigating novel processes for Kerry’s Taste Portfolio, with specific research focus in the areas of lipid systems and mimetics, enzyme processes and encapsulation of flavors and bioactives. Previously, she completed her Ph.D. in food science at the University of Georgia in 2019 under the direction of Dr. Casimir C. Akoh. During her Ph.D., her research focused on production of structured lipids containing menhaden fish oil, oleogels and the potential for addition of these health beneficial lipids into food products. Her undergraduate studies in food science were completed in 2016 at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Dr. Willett has been a member of AOCS since 2016 and is currently serving as the Young Professional CIG co-chair and Biotechnology Division newsletter editor.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

AOCS remembers John Heilman, AOCS Past President

We wish to express our sympathies to the AOCS community and John Heilman’s family. John’s passing was a surprise to many. Below are some of the memories we have received since his passing on September 26, 2021.

About John Heilman

John E Heilman
John graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1961 and the next year began his nearly 60 years of membership with AOCS. During this time, he volunteered his time and insights for many committees and eventually worked his way up, serving as AOCS President in 1998. John provided support and business acumen while serving from 2002–2011 on the Business Management Committee. John was recognized for his service by winning the A.R. Baldwin Distinguished Service Award and being awarded an AOCS Fellow in 2002. He will be missed by many.

Thoughts and memories from a few of John’s colleagues

"I first met John Heilman when I was a project engineer in Guntersville, Alabama. He had come down from New York City to discuss the expansion project at the plant. He was cordial and very bossy! We listened to his idea and then showed him a different way to do the project. He did hear us out and finally agreed with our input.  
"Once the project was completed, John and I had a very good working relationship until he retired. We traveled together to many countries in the world and within the US as well. Traveling with John was a lot of fun and at every meeting in the morning we would first discuss our dinner plans. And of course, the wine selection also. He claimed to be a connoisseur of both.
"He encouraged me to join AOCS when I relocated to New York City. We attended most of the meetings together and were instrumental in founding the AOCS Processing Division. John and I also presented papers at the World Conference on Oilseed and Edible Oil Processing held Oct. 3–8, 1982, in The Hague, The Netherlands.

"The last time I spoke to him was in early September of 2021 during my visit to New Jersey.  Even though he was not well he was always cheerful. I will miss him dearly. May his soul rest in eternal peace."

— Sadru Dada, International Agribusiness Consultant, former colleague at Continental Grains

"John was the most loyal employee that we could have had for over 40 years. He was always ready to support a new project and to utilize new technology. John started in the processing industry working for Armour back in the 60s. He joined Continental with the Allied Mills Division and eventually moved into Continental Grain with the consolidation in the 1970s. John was instrumental in building the Liverpool, Brazilian, Argentine, and Trinidad crushing plants and developing the Italian operations. He was involved in the South Dakota crushing plant. John functioned as the Processing Division’s Senior engineer for many years. John was always a source of information. He was still there to offer advice as recently as last month. We will miss his humor and off-hand remarks."

— Ron Anderson, former colleague at Continental Grains

"John and I worked together for 21 years at Continental Grain. First in Illinois and then in New York City. For many years, John, Sadru Dada and I handled the oversight of Conti's oilseed processing groups physical plant operations and engineering activities. It was a privilege to work with John daily.  Sadru was the perfect balancing factor to keep us in focus."

— Dan Decker, former colleague at Continental Grains

"I remember once being with John at a customer's office in Canada where he was acting as a consultant. He was always very thorough and demanding, not willing to take no for an answer. He could even come across as a little officious at times. During the discussion, we called the Desmet Ballestra office in Atlanta, USA, to try to talk to someone but were told he was in a meeting and not available.

"Not to be outdone, John sat up very straight in his chair and put on a superior air.  With a smile and a twinkle in his eye he said, “Tell him John Heilman's on the phone.” It had the desired effect and the person he wanted to speak to was soon on the line."

— Alan Paine, Consultant, UK

Maximizing your career opportunities: LinkedIn networking and more


Are you looking for ways to further your career goals?

Attend this interactive mixer with Lowell Islom, Hollander Horizon International (HHI), and Nandika Bandara, University of Manitoba, to learn about interview preparation, networking and strategic partnering.

This mixer is hosted by the AOCS Student Common Interest Group.

When: Monday, October 25, 2021, 12 p.m. CDT (Chicago, USA; UTC-5)

Register for free. 



Lowell Isom
Lowell Isom started consulting with Hollander Horizon International in 2006 and brought decades of experience in product development and management roles within the food and pharmaceutical industries. Lowell holds a B.S. in biology and an M.S. in food microbiology; he also holds a certification as a pastry chef from attending culinary school at Kendall College. Lowell began his professional career with Abbott Laboratories in the thyroid diagnostic research group and then joined Kraft Foods R&D in 1996 as a product development scientist. Within his four-year tenure, he eventually became a group leader, responsible for leading product development in the cheese division. While applied technology manager at The Solae Company, Lowell was instrumental in the development of numerous soy-based dairy analog technologies, including cheese and liquid and powdered beverages. Lowell was also director of R&D for a joint venture between DuPont and General Mills known as 8th Continent. In 2012, Lowell purchased Hollander Horizon International Inc (HHI) and has been acting as the managing partner since then.


Nandika Bandara
Nandika Bandara is an assistant professor and Canada research chair in food protein and bioproducts at the Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba. He is a certified food scientist (CFS) and material scientist with interdisciplinary research experience in food protein chemistry and technology, macromolecular chemistry, nanotechnology, biomimetics, and biobased/renewable polymer applications bioproducts and biomaterials. In addition to his current role as Canada research chair, he serves as an associate editor for Food Chemistry Journal (Elsevier), associate editor of the Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society (JAOCS), and as chair for the Food Chemistry Division in the Institute of Food Technologist (IFT).


Neethu Pottackal is a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Ajayan Pulickel’s research group in the Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering at Rice University. She graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in materials science and engineering, class of 2020, as part of the Rawlings Cornell Presidential Research Scholars Program. Neethu’s past research involved the development of food coatings and the valorization of food waste as biosorbents. Currently, at Rice, her research focuses on biomaterials for sustainable food coatings as well as 3D printing of food. She is passionate and interested to further explore the fascinating intersection between materials science and food science/technology.


Francisco Leyva Guiterrez
Francisco Leyva Gutierrez is a Ph.D. candidate in food science at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville under the guidance of Dr. Toni Wang. His research is centered on synthetic chemistry, analysis, and crystallography of simple and complex lipids, specifically plant cuticular lipids or waxes. He holds a B.Sc. in food science and chemistry from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He has a passion for botany and believes the study and mimicry of waxes, a plant's first line of defense, can assist in the development of new technologies and materials.


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Introducing top fiber protection against dirt with superior sustainability

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The increasing environmental awareness and concerns of consumers are expected to generate higher demand for sustainable products. In the past five years, almost 5.5 thousand laundry liquid detergents with ECO claims were launched globally, representing more than 70% of all new launches.

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TexCare® SRN 170 Terra has been developed specifically to address the two key challenges of the laundry detergents category: to create more natural and sustainable products, and with these to deliver real fiber protection. This includes increasing a product’s renewable carbon index (RCI), especially of performance ingredients such as polymers, and ensuring no performance drawback, that is, good stain removal, extended life of clothing, and fabric preservation.

Renewable Carbon Index: 75%

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Clariant’s entire TexCare® range uses multifunctional polymers with a molecular structure that is very similar to that of polyester materials. The molecules are deposited on the fabric, forming multiple layers that offer steadily growing protection to the fibers. Due to its relatively short chain length, TexCare® SRN 170 Terra is the most flexible in the line, being easy to formulate in most surfactant systems.

Providing more with less

This new solution shields against stains by forming a protective film on fabric, preventing soil from penetrating into the material. During subsequent washes, soil removal is facilitated and is then carried away by detergent micelles.

It also offers anti-redeposition, providing repulsion between fabric and soil as well as interacting with soil, capturing it and keeping it suspended away from the material.

Finally,  TexCare® is a soil lifter, improving cleaning by boosting detergency. It leads the surfactants closer to the soil which then starts separating from the fiber surface. By helping to remove stains in the first wash, producing a soil release effect in the next wash, maintaining the whiteness of clothes even after multiple washes, and being easy to incorporate into most surfactant systems, TexCare® SRN 170 Terra allows you noticeable differentiation by adding substantiated claims to your product.

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Friday, October 8, 2021

Member Spotlight: Timothy Abraham

Timothy Abraham

Dr. Timothy Abraham has been an AOCS member since 2005. He served as the secretary-treasurer of the AOCS Industrial Oil Products (IOP) Division from 2016–2019 and as the chair from 2019–2021.

Dr. Abraham is from Sri Lanka, where he received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He attended graduate school at the University of Minnesota, receiving his Ph.D. in organic/bioorganic chemistry in 1991. 

Following post-doctoral studies in medicinal chemistry at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Abraham joined Ambion Inc., the RNA company, in Austin, Texas. He moved back to Minnesota to join Cargill Inc. in 2000 as a senior scientist. Since joining Cargill, he has worked on various projects spanning food, feed and industrial applications. He was promoted to principal scientist in 2004, and subsequently became the new product development manager for Cargill’s biobased polyurethanes business. He moved back into corporate research, joining the engineering R&D function, where he was promoted to senior principal scientist in 2015. He was appointed a Cargill Corporate Fellow in 2019. He has 35 granted US patents and several more pending applications.

Dr. Abraham was a member of the team that won the EPA’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award in 2007 for “Biobased Polyols” and subsequently served on the judging panel for these awards. He has also won several awards at Cargill, including the Chairman’s Award and the prestigious "Bassy Award". The "Bassy Award" recognizes and honors individuals who consistently exemplify the attributes of the Cargill Leadership Model and have over their career provided significant contributions to the company.

Dr. Abraham has been serving on the External Advisory Board for the Department of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota since 2016. Mentoring and volunteering are two of his passions, which include mentoring students in middle school, high school, and college, and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, Loaves & Fishes, and Kids Against Hunger.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Member Spotlight: Mike Martinez

Mike Martinez
Mike Martinez is the newly elected chairperson of the AOCS Processing (PRO) Division.

Shortly after completing his B.S. in chemistry at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, Mike joined the staff at Natural Plant Products. In 2010, he assumed the position of CEO for both Natural Plant Products and its parent company, OMG, a cooperative of Oregon farms. In this capacity, he is responsible for all operations from crop production to finished product distribution in the personal care industry. In addition to his studies in chemistry, Mike completed an MBA at Willamette University with a focus on strategy and sustainability. A native of Seal Beach, CA, Mike is now proud to call himself an Oregonian and has adopted the requisite habits of running, the pursuit of pinot noir and the habitual avoidance of umbrellas.

For those not familiar with Natural Plant Products, the company markets meadowfoam oil and other specialty oils to the global personal care and cosmetics industries. Meadowfoam oil is derived from the seeds of Limnanthes alba, a winter annual that was commercialized in Oregon’s Willamette Valley during the 1980s. Though native to California, the crop filled a critical rotational role in Oregon’s grass seed industry. Both Oregon State University and the USDA-ARS were instrumental in the development of meadowfoam as a specialty crop. This unique oil is known for its high oxidative stability relative to other seed oils. The stability stems from the unique C20 and C22 fatty acids that compose the oil. An internet search can provide more detail or visit

What do you wish you would had known when you first started?

The financial models that exist for specialty oils are different than those for familiar commodities like soy, palm and cotton. For example, meadowfoam’s value is concentrated almost entirely in the oil (99%+), as usages for meal and cake are restricted by pesticide and feed regulations. As I have gained understanding of the markets for oils such as cotton, almond and canola, I have been able to apply those fundamentals to our current operations and integrate them into our strategic planning.

What is the most challenging issue that you have personally faced in oilseeds?

Consolidation within the oilseed industry has reduced the number of plants available for toll processing. The advances in technology allowing for ever larger plants has further reduced the number of plants that are of reasonable size for specialty seeds that trade exclusively in the cosmetics space. Our cooperative farms in a region with high land values and a climate not suited to most oilseeds. The identification of oilseeds that would interest cosmetics brands and identifying a secure path to manufacturing has been the largest challenge I have faced in the past decade. 

What is the biggest challenge you see in oilseeds today?

From my perspective in the cosmetics industry, logistics and costs are causing massive disruptions to normal operations. Ocean freight shipments are often delayed by weeks, and it is increasingly difficult to secure bookings for both imports and exports. Domestic freight costs for our materials have tripled on some freight lanes, while steel, energy and labor costs are increasing rapidly. We’ve always planned for and assumed costs will increase over time. The problem is the pace of change. I don’t think these challenges are unique to the specialty oilseed world.

Any final thoughts you would like to share?

Our company has noted an increased customer interest in supply chain transparency and sustainability. I think this provides options and challenges for both specialty and commodity oils producers. For smaller entities, securing the resources necessary to quantity environmental, social and financial impacts across a supply chain will be challenging. For larger producers or food companies, I imagine the challenge of creating identity-preserved supply chains for raw materials sourced on a global basis is top of mind. Our industry will need to drive collaboration and education, so we are prepared to answer our customers’ questions regarding impacts from seed through packaging.

Member Spotlight: Brian P. Grady

Brian P. Grady
Dr. Brian P. Grady is the Douglas and Hilda Bourne Chair in Chemical Engineering and Director, School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering, at the University of Oklahoma (OU). He is also the Director of the Institute for Applied Surfactant Research at OU.

He is a member of the AOCS Surfactants and Detergents (S&D) Division.

How did you first get involved with AOCS?

As with most of you I suspect, my first interaction with AOCS was attending the AOCS Annual Meeting & Expo. My Ph.D. (Wisconsin, 1994) research area was polymer science. Although while working as a process engineer at Procter and Gamble from 1987–-1989 I did learn a bit about surfactants, even though I was making a food product. 

My first significant involvement with surfactants occurred when I started as a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma. I became interested in admicellar polymerization, which was the subject of my first successful NSF proposal! I eventually became interested more generally in surfactant adsorption at the solid-liquid interface, which naturally led me to AOCS. I attended my first AOCS Annual Meeting in Seattle in 2008 and have attended every meeting since, with only one exception. 

What do you value most about the AOCS Surfactants and Detergents Division?

In my experience, academics seem to attend meetings only with other academics, and industry people only with other industry people. The characteristic I value most about the S&D Division of AOCS is that the meeting is at the interface (pun intended 😊) of the two groups. I fully admit that I pay more attention to more talks during the S&D technical program at the AOCS Annual Meeting vs. more academic meetings because I am more likely to get research ideas from the former. 

The only international meeting I organized was on surfactants (SIS 2018, special issue in the Journal of Surfactants and Detergents!) and historically was mostly a meeting with academics. I took great pains to try to get a good mix of industrial and academic talks, modelling what AOCS does (with a little bit more academic talks; what did you expect?).

Besides the AOCS Annual Meeting, how have you been involved in AOCS?

My other significant experience has been in society governance. Once an academic achieves tenure, he/she should sit back and figure out long-term professional goals (before that, the only goal is to be awarded tenure!). 

I was very interested in professional society governance. I still have a significant interest in polymer science, so I became involved in that area first, but eventually became involved with S&D as well. First, I was Secretary-Treasurer for the S&D Division. I mostly remember how gracious our industrial representatives were to sponsor the Division. Both in this role and in my role as Chair I always tried to figure out how best to provide value for their generous donation. I never was Vice-Chair; organizing the technical sessions for the Annual Meeting is too much work for me! In my opinion, the Chair gets far more credit than he/she deserves for the smooth running of S&D, while the Vice-Chair doesn’t get enough. In my two years as Chair, I interacted with all the members of the Division, which was quite fulfilling. 

Currently, my significant involvement is organizing and chairing sessions (which I very much enjoy!) and being on the editorial board of the Journal of Surfactants and Detergents (which isn’t a ton of work but sounds impressive!).