Thursday, April 14, 2022

Member spotlight: Ignacio Vieitez

Ignacio Vieitez is a full research professor in the Department of Science and Food Technology, School of Chemistry, at Universdad de la República (UdelaR) in Montevideo, Uruguay. Prof. Vieitez received a Ph.D. in chemistry from UdelaR. He currently develops new green extraction processes based on the use of compressed fluids to isolate bioactive compounds from natural sources such as agricultural by-products and plants. He has been an AOCS member since 2011 and participates in several academic and social activities across different AOCS Divisions.

He is the session chair for the following sessions at the 2022 AOCS Annual Meeting & Expo:

“It is a pleasure to be involved in different activities with AOCS and to interact with the members,” he says. “Therefore, I strongly recommend being able to participate in the AOCS 2022 meeting.”

Prof. Vieitez, please describe your research and/or explain what big challenge or problem your work is trying to solve.

Obtaining natural bioactive extracts from natural sources is not an easy task since the extraction and purification processes must be developed. Our group develops new environmentally clean processes, working at mild conditions to avoid degradation of the bioactive compounds to study, for instance: the inhibitory effects of Cannabis flower extracts, obtained by supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2) with and without modifier, on various human tumor cells and non-tumor cells, or obtaining new antioxidant extracts using natural raw materials. One of the main challenges deals with the discovery of new natural sources. We have been working in the reutilization and optimization extraction procedures, for instance, the olive oil by-products.

In this regard, compressed fluids technologies offer great versatility and efficiency for extracting bioactive compounds, as the properties of the solvents used can be modified through changes in extraction pressure or temperature, thus modifying their selectivity towards the compounds of interest. For instance, extraction of natural products with supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2) has gained increasing attention from the food industries because conventional methods involve solvents that are inflammable and/or toxic and high temperatures that could degrade products of interest and produce impurities while CO2 is considered a GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) substance and the technology involved uses moderated conditions.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I like my job at UdelaR as a researcher for various reasons, mainly the opportunity to participate in different projects with the associated challenges and also the opportunity that this offers to meet new researchers from which you always learn. 

There is no typical day in the life of an academic, but something like this contains most of the activities one would do regularly: arrive at work early in the morning, answer emails from students, look for research material online, try to write my new article, or activities like papers to review, classes to teach or classes to prep for, students to meet with. However, I feel that academic freedom and a flexible schedule is part of my life. I still love the teaching itself and research with students and colleagues around the world. I think I have been able to do interesting, innovative research and develop worldwide connections.

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