Monday, March 7, 2022

Spotlight on Maria Lidia Herrera, recipient of the 2022 Timothy L. Mounts Award

We are delighted to announce that Dr. Maria Lidia Herrera is the recipient of the 2022 Timothy L. Mounts Award. This award, sponsored by the AOCS Edible Applications Technology Division, recognizes research related to the science and technology of edible oils or derivatives in food products, which may be basic or applied in nature.

About Maria Lidia Herrera

Maria Lidia Herrera

Dr. Maria Lidia Herrera graduated as Ph.D. in biochemistry from the National University of La Plata in December 1990. She completed two post-doctoral trainings abroad: the first one at the Faculty of Applied Biological Sciences of Hiroshima University, Japan, from March 1993 to May 1994 and the second one at the Babcock Hall of University of Wisconsin-Madison from September 1997 to May 1999. She is an associate professor at the Department of Organic Chemistry of the Faculty of Exact and Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires and a principal researcher of the National Research Council of Argentina (CONICET) at the Institute of Polymer Technology and Nanotechnology at the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Urbanism.

Can you tell us about your current research?

In recent years, my main interest has been to investigate the polymorphism of tropical fats, especially shea and cupuassu fats. These systems have a complex behavior because they have high contents of triacyclglycerols SOA and SOO, which leads to fractionation and the simultaneous presence of different polymorphic forms that do not undergo polymorphic transformations from one to another. My interest focused on the study of tropical fats with synchrotron light techniques because they allow the identification and quantification of polymorphic forms in real time and in situ, showing particularities of polymorphic behavior that cannot be described with conventional techniques. 

I also used synchrotron light techniques to describe the structure of systems that contain a fatty phase, such as emulsions and gels. From the SAXS curves, the size and distribution of the building blocks and the distance between the building blocks can be evaluated, so that the effect of different factors, such as formulation and gelling conditions, can be quantified. This data enables a deeper understanding of a system and also helps improve formulation and processing conditions.

What was your reaction when you learned you had won the award

My first feeling upon hearing the news of the Timothy Mounts Award was gratitude to AOCS for helping me advance my career in so many different ways, to the Edible Application Division for appreciating my work, to the ones who nominated me, and to my coworkers who share with me their ideas and help me improve my research.

How has AOCS helped develop your career?

The AOCS helped me develop my career in so many different ways. Giving me the opportunity to present my work at AOCS annual meetings, being a forum where I can meet colleagues from all over the world, allowing me to serve as associate editor of the Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society, participate in committees, and finally receive an award that is highly recognized in my country and will be highly regarded by my university in future promotions.

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