Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Member spotlight: Hefei Zhao

Hefei Zhao

Hefei Zhao is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). Hefei's work focuses on developing functional ingredients of under-utilized agricultural commodities and applying natural antioxidants and polyphenols derived from grapes in fatty foods. 

His areas of interest also include evaluating the functional properties of proteins (plant base and egg white proteins) for an appropriate application in food products and developing rapid analytical methods (Machine-Learning-Driven Raman Spectroscopy) to detect food quality and compositions such as edible oils, lipid oxidation and proteins. He is also investigating how to apply intelligent algorithms and mathematic models, such as Genetic Algorithm (GA) and Machine/Deep learning, to solve technique and engineering problems in the field of food nutrition, science and technology.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I usually drive 15 minute to the UC Davis campus, Food Science Department, then get a cup of black tea but sometimes oolong tea for a later drink. Then, I start my lab work or data analysis and deal with emails among colleagues and collaborators. After lunch, I usually go outside for a ten-minute walk and enjoy California sunlight and sometimes see a wild turkey family enjoying the day as well.

Describe your research and explain what big challenge or problem your work is trying to solve.

I am currently a postdoctoral scholar in the laboratory of Associate Prof. Dr. Selina C. Wang. My research focuses on the separation and identification of phenolic compounds of California olive and grape pomaces. The big challenge is that the phenols in olives are very sensitive and easy to decompose into other compounds and derivatives during purification processes. Therefore, intensive identifications of mass fragmentations by the high-performance liquid chromatography-quadrupole time-of-flight ( HPLC-QToF-MS/MS) are required in my study.

How do you hope or how has AOCS helped in solving challenges you encounter in your work and/or research?

AOCS is a very active platform and community for oil, protein, and antioxidant chemists in North America as well as worldwide. It provides webinars, annual conferences, and newsletters to disseminate my research outcomes, frequently exchange ideas, and get feedback from scholars in the community. Those are very crucial and important for my research development in food science and technology.

What excites you about your work?

The serendipity and beautiful parts of my research are those unexpected results and new findings. Then deeper thinking and analysis could result in new methods and new explanations reported. The most exciting are paper acceptances and publications for sure.

What do you like to do when you are not in the lab or presenting at meetings?

I like to take my 7-year-old son, Jason, to visit zoos and aquariums. I enjoy seeing him explore the world of different kinds of animals and fishes. I also like fishing, swimming and golf. I normally go swimming 2-3 times per week and occasionally go fishing at the lakeside. The bass and crappie are my favorite. I also like food and cooking and exploring restaurants. I like not only Chinese dishes, but also foods from different cultures and worldwide.

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