UMass food scientists garner a mélange of sweet victories

UMass food scientists garner a mélange of sweet victories

April 18, 2019

From young researchers to experienced alumni—UMass Food Scientists continue to be leaders in their field

Professor Named 2019 Young Scientist Research Award

Guodong Zhang, assistant professor of food science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is being honored with the 2019 Young Scientist Research Award from the American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS). The award is given to scientists whose research “has significantly effected an advance within their discipline, or holds substantial promise for such an effect in the near future.” 

Guodong ZhangRecipients of the Young Scientist Research Award must be younger than 36 years old or have earned their highest degree within the last 10 years. Zhang will receive $1,000, a plaque and a $1,500 travel allowance to attend the AOCS annual meeting May 5-8 in St. Louis, Mo., where he will be recognized and give an award lecture. 

“We are very happy to receive this award,” says Zhang, including his research team in the honor.  

The AOCS is an international professional organization with roots back to 1909. It strives to advance the science and technology of oils, fats, proteins, surfactants and related materials. 

Zhang’s research focuses on seeking ways to reduce the risks of colonic inflammation, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and colon cancer. He aims to identify risk factors and develop new therapeutic targets and biomarkers. 

He also studies how exposure to environmental and dietary compounds alters gut microbiota – the different types of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes that live in the intestines – and increases the risks of inflammation in the colon and related diseases. 

Zhang led a team that identified a set of enzymes involved in tumor growth that could be targeted to prevent or treat colon cancer. That discovery was highlighted in a recent paper published in the journal Cancer Research. 

Alum Elected Institute of Food Technologists PresidentNoel Anderson

Alumnus Noel Anderson, a member of the College of Natural Sciences Advisory Board, has been elected president-elect of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), an 80-year-old professional organization whose mission is to advance the science of food and its application across the global food system. Anderson’s term will begin in September.

Anderson received his bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees in food science and has remained engaged with the university throughout his career. He served on the Food Science Industrial Advisory Board for more than 20 years and received the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 2011. 

After spending more than 35 years in research and development, first at General Foods/Kraft and most recently PepsiCo, Anderson is now managing partner of Mosaic Food Advisors, which helps food and beverage start-up companies. Anderson has been an active member of IFT for 45 years and was elected an IFT Fellow in 2010.

Highly-cited professors Honored for Cutting-edge Research

Two Renowned UMass Amherst Food Science Researchers Honored by Institute of Food Technologists. 

University of Massachusetts Amherst Distinguished Professor David Julian McClements and Professor Hang Xiao, both among the most highly cited researchers in the world, have won awards for their contributions to food science from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). 

McClements was chosen to receive the Nicolas Appert Award, named after the French inventor known as the “father of canning.” The award honors “preeminence in and contributions to the field of food technology,” and recognizes a lifetime of achievement. The award includes a $5,000 honorarium from IFT and a bronze medal. 

Xiao, Clydesdale Scholar of Food Science,was tapped for the Babcock-Hart Award, named after groundbreaking agricultural chemists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The award is given for food technology contributions that improved public health through nutrition. Xiao will receive a $3,000 honorarium from the International Life Sciences Institute North America and a plaque from IFT. 

Both UMass Amherst food scientists will be formally recognized at the IFT’s annual meeting in June in New Orleans. 

McClementsThe Appert Award is the latest of numerous honors and accolades for McClements, an internationally recognized expert in nanotechnology and structural design principles, such as encapsulation and delivery of bioactive compounds with health benefits, including omega-3 fatty acids, carotenoids, and vitamins. 

His research focuses on understanding the physicochemical breakdown of foods within the gastrointestinal tract in an effort to design functional foods that improve human health through dietary interventions. 

“I am really honored to receive this award from my peers in the food science community,” McClements says. “I have been extremely lucky to have wonderful colleagues, students and visiting scientists throughout my career at UMass, and to work in a department that fosters collaboration and innovation, which really helped me to establish a successful research program.” Xiao

Xiao’s research focuses on identifying dietary components, or nutraceuticals, that have the potential to prevent chronic diseases. He studies and describes their molecular mechanisms and uses nanotechnology and food processing to enhance their health benefits. His long-term goal is to develop diet-based strategies to prevent diseases and promote health. 

Xiao recently received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study how gut bacteria help transform citrus fruit compounds into powerful anti-inflammatory agents in the body. He hopes the research leads to dietary recommendations to prevent or treat inflammation-related conditions in the colon, such as irritable bowel disease and colorectal cancer. 

Xiao says “it’s a great honor” to receive the Babcock-Hart Award and recognition of his work from his peers, adding that he is very grateful for the support from his UMass Amherst food science colleagues that is critical to his research achievements. 

Department Head Elected American Oil Chemists’ Society President

Professor Eric Decker, head of food science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been elected president of the American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS), a century-old group that aims to Deckeradvance the science and technology of oils, fats, proteins, surfactants and related materials. He has served as vice president of the organization over the past year.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by your peers and have the chance to work with the great members of the top international scientific organization on fats and oils,” Decker says. “Over the next year I hope to help the organization do more work on sustainable foods and improving the health and wellness of the food supply.”

Decker has more than 350 publications and has served on committees of the FDA, Institute of Medicine, Institute of Food Technology, USDA and American Heart Association. Most recently, he was one of 13 appointed members of the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) Committee to Review the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for sodium and potassium, an 18-month process that culminated in new recommendations last month.

Share this story: