AOCS member leaders in focus

Get to know AOCS member leaders and learn about their significant contributions.

Learn more about the contributions AOCS member leaders have made to their scientific fields and the Society.

Yomi Watanabe


Associate editor, Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society

Why did you initially decide to volunteer with AOCS?

Actually, I took over the associate editor role from my retiring superior. AOCS members who were current associate editors had warmly encouraged me to join. Thanks associate editors, for welcoming me.

What is the most positive aspect of your AOCS volunteering experience?

Getting connected to active researchers worldwide is wonderful! It is fun to meet Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society (JAOCS) authors, who I only know by name, at the Annual Meeting and continue discussion!

I also hope to encourage rather quiet, young women researchers to attend international meetings. I try to encourage young researchers to attend the AOCS meeting and make their international debut.

What is the most challenging aspect of your AOCS volunteering experience?

To keep the criteria and standard consistent for all manuscripts submitted from all over the world, especially when I need to make a hard decision.

Why did you decide to take on the role of associate editor for JAOCS (as opposed to other opportunities), and how has it affected your professional development?

After publishing several manuscripts in JAOCS, I felt it was a good time to thank anonymous reviewers and editors who had reviewed and edited my manuscripts via taking the associate editor role.

Ruojie Zhang

Ruojie Zhang

Ruojie Zhang (University of Massachusetts-Amherst, USA) is the 2018 recipient of the Thomas H. Smouse Memorial Fellowship, which is awarded to a graduate student doing research in areas of interest to AOCS. The award consists of a pair of inscribed bookends, a $10,000 stipend, $5,000 in research and travel funds, and an award lecture at the AOCS Annual Meeting.

What was your reaction when you learned you’d won the Smouse Fellowship?

I was really surprised when I noticed that I was the recipient of the prestigious Smouse Fellowship. The Smouse Fellowship has been the highest recognition for a graduate student involved in fats and oils chemistry since 1996. The favorite quote of Dr. Thomas H. Smouse, "the roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet," has inspired generations of youth to pursue education and contribute to fats and oils chemistry. Numbers of recipients of this award have become preeminent scientists and industry leaders. It is truly an honor to be among those who have received this award. I am also extremely grateful that my research was recognized by AOCS. 

For those who aren’t aware, the Fellowship includes an award lecture at the AOCS Annual Meeting. Was this your first time presenting at the meeting? If so, what advice can you give to fellow graduate students who are presenting for the first time?

Actually, this was not my first time presenting at a conference, but the AOCS Annual Meeting provides a great platform for me to present my research to the broader fats and oils community and get feedback from so many scientists who are working in the same area. I have to point out that the UMass Food Science Department has provided great presentation training for all graduate students, including organizing seminars on presentation skills and strategies, holding oral and poster presentation competitions, and providing feedback and ways to improve from professors. Personally, I feel this presentation training was very helpful for me to be more confident and make my presentation more impressive and efficient.

Nevertheless, for students who are doing their first conference presentation, I would like to say that the more you practice, the better you will do. Practice with yourself to be confident and fluent, practice with your lab mates or advisor who can give you technical feedback, and practice with your friends who are out of your research area and make sure your presentation is understandable to a general audience.

Can you tell us about your research?

I focus on the design of excipient emulsions and nanoemulsions to improve the bioavailability of nutraceuticals from natural foods (such as fruits and vegetables), as well as to study their possible side effects for human health (such as increasing the bioavailability of hydrophobic pesticides). An important aspect of this work has been to control the rate and extent of free fatty acid production that occurs during lipid digestion, and on understanding the nature of the mixed micelles formed by free fatty acids under small intestine conditions. The dimensions of the hydrophobic domains formed in the mixed micelles have a major impact on the bioavailability of hydrophobic nutraceuticals and pesticides. The ultimate aim of this research is to develop high-quality functional food and beverage products that will increase the bioavailability of bioactive components.

How has the Fellowship helped you with your studies?

This Fellowship consists of a $10,000 stipend and a $5,000 research fund, which can be used for travel to professional meetings and for research expenditures related to the student’s graduate program. With the support of this Fellowship, I had the chance to attend many academic conferences, such as AOCS, IFT, and Gordon Research, where I had chances to present my research and communicate with other researchers, as well as attend a short course training. In addition, I was able to expand my research on both the beneficial effects of nanoemulsions associated with increasing nutrient bioavailability, as well as highlight any potential adverse effects. Moreover, the high prestige associated with this Fellowship has been a great benefit to my academic development.

Can you share any advice for graduate students who want to apply to the Fellowship?

To be honest, I feel I am very lucky to be granted this prestigious fellowship and sometimes I question whether I am good enough to receive it. I know there are many excellent graduate students who are doing impressive research and could be the potential recipient of this Fellowship.

Personally, I think I was granted this Fellowship not only because of my research achievement but also my service contribution. I have been an active student member of AOCS since 2014 and served as a volunteer for the AOCS Annual Meeting many times. I also have taken leadership responsibilities in the Student Common Interest Group (CIG), first as Co-Chair and now Chair. In my role as Chair, I help organize AOCS student events and draft the CIG newsletters.

In addition to service for AOCS, I contribute to many other student organizations, such as being the Vice President of the Phi Tau Sigma UMass Chapter and Chair of the UMass Life Sciences Graduate Research Council. I feel that my service contributions to the society were recognized when I applied to the Fellowship, which helped me stand out from other outstanding candidates. Therefore, I strongly suggest graduate students become more involved in society service if they would like to apply to this Fellowship. Actually, serving in the society not only increases your chance to win this Fellowship, but also offers great opportunities to develop your leadership skills, build the service component of your CV, and make a difference in the graduate student community.

Nurhan Dunford

Nurhan Dunford

Nurhan Dunford was named an AOCS Fellow in 2018. The AOCS Fellow Award is a category of AOCS membership that recognizes achievements in science, or extraordinary service to the Society.

What was your reaction when you learned you’d been named an AOCS Fellow?

I know that Fellow is the highest recognition that a society can give and AOCS Fellows are experts and leaders in the field of fats and oils. I feel honored to be included in the ranks of such an extraordinary group of people.

Your award nomination cited your dedication to serving in volunteer AOCS roles, including Annual Meeting General Chairperson, Division leadership roles, and associate editor for JAOCS, among others. What motivates you to serve in AOCS volunteer roles?

I have been a member of the society over 20 years. Getting involved in a professional association after graduating from college is the first step to boost personal and professional development. My involvement in AOCS broadened my knowledge, expanded my professional network, I made many friends, had the opportunity to serve in many leadership positions, and enhanced the national and international visibility of Oklahoma State University and my research program. But most importantly, not only myself but also my graduate students benefited from my involvement in the society; they attended Annual Meetings with me, gave oral and poster presentations, experienced the Industry Expo during the meetings, and won graduate student excellence awards. As educators, it is our responsibility to provide these opportunities, which are very important for the professional development of students.

You’ve been involved with multiple AOCS Divisions. What impact has your participation in Divisions had on your career and AOCS experience?

My involvement in multiple AOCS Divisions expanded my knowledge of the science of fats and oils and allowed me to learn about current issues, problems, and advancements from a diverse group of experts in academia and industry. Those interactions and knowledge shape the research projects we work on in my group.

Can you tell us about your current research? What big problem or challenge are you trying to solve?

I am an engineer by training. I came to academia after a long career in industry. Partly because of those experiences, my current research is very applied. I am very interested in system design, environmentally benign production technologies, and process optimization for value-added product manufacturing. I am very concerned about sustainability of the environment and natural resources. So, my research program focuses on the biorefinery concept to produce bioproducts, minimize waste, and reduce the impact of processing on the environment. Our microalgae research is an excellent example of what we are trying to do in my research group. The idea is to grow microalgae in wastewater and produce algal biomass while cleaning up the wastewater. Then, we convert the algal biomass to renewable products such as biofuel and bio-char. Currently, we are growing algae in animal wastewater and wastewater generated by hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas production. These are two very important wastewater streams in our state, Oklahoma.

Are there any favorite memories from AOCS you’d like to share?

My favorite memories include seeing my students present their research findings at the AOCS Annual Meetings and receiving awards recognizing their hard work. For me, attending the AOCS Annual Meetings is like a reunion. I love seeing my longtime friends, colleagues, mentors, and former students.

Alice Lichtenstein

Alice Lichtenstein

Alice Lichtenstein is the 2018 recipient of the Supelco AOCS Research Award, which recognizes outstanding original research in fats, oils, lipid chemistry or biochemistry. View her award presentation: "Dietary Fat Phobia — Dispelling the Myth that All Fats are Bad"

What was your reaction when you learned you’d won the Supelco AOCS Research Award?

I was a bit taken back. It is an extraordinary honor. I don’t think anyone is quite prepared. It then became even more extraordinary when I found out I was the first female to receive the honor since the inception of the prize in the 1960s. I am immensely grateful for the honor.

In your award presentation, you suggest a “clear, concise unified message about dietary fat and health outcomes” needs to be developed to dispel dietary fat phobia. Can you expand on how you envision that message would be developed and effectively communicated to the public?

The message itself has been developed; dietary fat is an essential component of a healthy dietary pattern. The problem is in the details. More often than not we research scientists get tangled in the weeds. We are trained to strive for precision. In the laboratory setting that is vital for generating high-quality data. However, when translating our science into public policy for dissemination, what seems like essential details can serve to diffuse and sometimes distort the message to non-scientists that are looking to us for advice on what to eat. In the case of dietary fat, the overwhelming data indicates that it is not the amount of fat but type of fat that has the greatest impact on health outcomes.

The best advice we can provide at the moment is to replace sources of saturated fat, generally meat and dairy fat, with unsaturated fat, generally liquid vegetable oils. Within the scientific community we may be trying to sort out whether all saturated fatty acids have similar biological effects, but such data is not ready for prime time because there are still some unanswered questions and we eat food, which contains a mixture of fatty acids, not individual fatty acids.

One of your later slides notes your commentary in JAMA titled “Bring Back Home Economics Education.” Can you tell us about your vision for what a contemporary Home Economics class would teach students, and how your research has informed that vision?

First, I was corrected by the community, the term is no longer Home Ec., it is now Family and Consumer Sciences ( My vison and sincere hope is that food and nutrition education becomes a mandatory component of the curriculum in grades K through 12. Eating is our most basic need. Learning how to pick and choose from the options readily available within our current food environment is challenging. I think it is incumbent on us to ensure our children have the tools necessary to make smart decisions about their food and drink so that as they grow and become adults they will reap the benefits of what is available to them and avoid the pitfalls.

The food environment has shifted dramatically. What is available in food stores today is dramatically different than what was available a century ago. Yet, efforts to educate our youth have not kept up. In fact, we have slipped. The traditional Home Ec. used to be mandatory for at least half the population, females. Although both males and females need the information even more than ever before, the discipline has disappeared from many of the schools. To make headway in stemming the obesity epidemic and high rates of chronic disease, we need to teach children how to hunt and gather in the 21st century. We need to equip them with the skills they need to take advantage of all the nutrition information we have fought so hard to make available and take advantage of modern processing techniques that has made food preparation easier and provides more options while avoiding the pitfalls.

It is never too early to start the educational process. In kindergarten children can be exposed to different types of foods - shapes, colors, textures and tastes. As they progress through the educational process, many of the basic concepts about food and nutrition can be incorporated into science, math, economics and physical education curriculum, to name a few. I think such an investment will improve health in the long run, decrease the risk of chronic disease and, as we live longer, improve quality of life.

Looking back over your career, are there any research accomplishments that are particularly important to you?

I was fortunate to be in a position to contribute to the burst of research in the area of partially hydrogenated fat, trans fatty acids and health outcomes. Some of the work my laboratory completed was used in formulating dietary and regulatory guidance on the topic. We have now phased the majority of the trans fatty acids out of the food supply. This makes the default option the healthier option for the consumer. In a sense stealth nutrition. The feasibility of doing this was very much dependent on the work of AOCS scientists who developed acceptable alternatives to partially hydrogenated fat. In the long run I think we will all benefit from this change.

How do you hope AOCS can help advance knowledge of dietary fat and its role in human nutrition and health?

The scientists in AOCS play a critical role in ensuring high-quality and safe fats and oils are available to be consumed directly and incorporated into the foods we eat. Their innovative processing techniques allow nutrition scientists to address important questions about how dietary fat improves health outcomes. It is nice to see the complementary activities of the AOCS and nutrition societies. Hopefully, we will see more of it in the future.

Zhi-Hong Yang

Zhi-Hong Yang

Zhi-Hong Yang is the 2018 recipient of the Health and Nutrition Division New Investigator Research Award, which recognizes a young scientist who is making significant and substantial research contributions in one of the areas represented by the Health and Nutrition Division of AOCS.

What was your reaction when you learned you’d won the Health and Nutrition Division New Investigator Research Award?

I was truly surprised when I opened the email in the morning and found out that I was selected as the winner of the Award: Is it really me, not anyone else with a similar name? For a minute I still could not believe it and started to feel even a bit uncomfortable because you worry that other people in the field might think that you are not really worthy of it: That’s what I thought at that moment. At the same time, however, I felt extremely happy and excited about the news as a new investigator who has put all my energy and passion into studying these novel omega fatty acids.

Can you tell us about your research?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major healthcare problem worldwide and is known to be greatly affected by diet. In particular, consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), such as oleic acid (cis-C16:1 n-7), the most common MUFA in the typical American diet, decreases CVD risk. In contrast, there is limited information on the physiological effects of other dietary MUFAs, with different carbon chain length, such as longer-chain MUFA (LCMUFA), and with aliphatic tails longer than 18 that are enriched in some marine sources, such a pollock, herring and saury. In addition, shorter-chain MUFA like palmitoleic acid (PA; cis-C16:1 n-7) that are abundant in macadamia nuts, Sea Buckthorn and certain fish species may also have beneficial CVD effects but are also not well studied. Our recent animal studies uncovered a novel link between LCMUFA-rich fish oil intake and the improvement of cardiovascular health and demonstrated for the first time that dietary LCMUFA may be anti-atherogenic, possibly because of the improved lipoprotein subfamily profile and regulation of the signaling pathway for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors  (PPARs). When we compared dietary PA to oleic acid, we found that PA caused improved lipid and glucose metabolism and increased satiety in animal models through multiple mechanisms, including favorable regulation of genes involved in lipid metabolism, insulin signaling and inflammations, and increasing production of satiety hormones. My findings on PA have contributed greatly to creating the rationale for the commercial development and availability of PA supplements, which are now starting to be more widely used by the public. Based on these promising results, we are now performing human clinical trials on supplementation with LCMUFA-rich fish oil ( Identifier: NCT03043365) and PA concentrate oil ( Identifier: NCT03372733) to investigate their effect on cardiometabolic biomarkers.

What future impact do you hope your research will have on nutrition science and public health?

The American Heart Association and Dietary Guidelines for Americans have long advised the replacement of saturated fatty acids with MUFAs, but a more detailed understanding of the effect of various types of dietary MUFAs on CVD risk is needed. Our pre-clinical and ongoing clinical trials suggest that enriching dietary LCMUFA and PA may have beneficial and perhaps unique effects on CVD risk factors, and thus could lead to new dietary recommendations and improvements in the formulation of fish oil and/or MUFA supplements. My ongoing work to study the role of dietary supplements, especially novel functional lipids, in CVD prevention is of the outmost national interest. My continuing project in dietary rare MUFA will contribute to better understanding of the benefits and risks of fish and specific dietary ingredient’s consumption and build on past efforts to understand the impacts of MUFA on health outcomes. My vision is to better understand the dietary regulation mechanism in atherosclerosis and to develop effective CVD control and prevention strategies could have significant implications for the quality of life for millions of people in America and beyond.

How has AOCS helped you develop as a young scientist?

Continuously attending the AOCS Annual Meeting and reading journals and articles issued by AOCS have helped widen and deepen my knowledge in the field of health and lipid nutrition and build a network of other professionals in both academia and industry. The AOCS Health and Nutrition Division’s mission of strengthening knowledge and understanding of dietary lipids encouraged me to apply for the award and to seek a pathway as a young scientist to become an independent investigator in the future.

Dharma Kodali

Dharma Kodali

Professor Dharma Kodali is the 2018 recipient of the Alton E. Bailey Award, which recognizes outstanding research and exceptional service in the field of lipids and associated products. As part of the award, he gave a presentation titled “Transformation of a synthetic chemist into an oil chemist” during a special session at the 2018 Annual Meeting.

What was your reaction when you learned you’d won the Alton E. Bailey Award?

I was happy, felt recognized and honored at the same time. Mr. Alton E. Bailey was a stalwart and a pioneer in fats and oils chemistry, processing and applications. His original compendium Bailey's Industrial Oil and Fat Products is still considered an old testament in the fats and oils area. Also, in the over 60 years that the Bailey award has been presented, some of the recipients have been my mentors and peers, including Professors Donald Small, Kiyotaka Sato, Gary List and Alejandra Marangoni, among many other well-known lipid scientists. I would like to thank the selection committee for the recognition and Professor Marangoni for nominating me, and I also appreciate the people who supported the nomination.

Your presentation is titled “Transformation of a Synthetic Chemist into an Oil Chemist.” What role has AOCS played in your career, and did it have any role in this transformation?

Over the years AOCS played a huge role in my transformation from being a synthetic chemist into an oil chemist. I was originally trained as a synthetic medicinal chemist in my Ph.D. During my post-doctoral studies, I synthesized a series of fluorescent probes to study the micro-environment of aggregated structures like micelles and cyclodextrins. With this limited physical chemistry experience, my introduction to lipids occurred during my early research career while working in the Biophysics Department at Boston University. During this time, I attended my first AOCS national meeting, about 35 years ago, and presented a paper on the synthesis of stereospecific glycerol derivatives. The presentations at the AOCS meeting were educational and impressive, and the people were cordial. Since then, I rarely missed an AOCS national meeting. The networking and research collaborations I developed during AOCS meetings were instrumental in developing my scientific career. For example, one of the research collaborations I forged with Professor Sato’s group lasted over a lifetime and resulted in a number of scientific publications. Over my research career, whether working in academia or industry, the AOCS community served as my first reach out to discuss any new scientific developments or change in regulations like trans fats issues. With time, it became a social habit to look forward to the AOCS national meetings in April/May to meet and catch up with friends and peers and to make new acquaintances.

The criteria for the Bailey Award include “outstanding leadership to the Society.” For those that aren’t aware, you’ve been an AOCS member since 1982, during which you’ve served in Division leadership, as a session chair, and as an author and editor of AOCS Press book chapters, among other roles. What have been some your most meaningful leadership experiences in AOCS?

The association with AOCS benefitted me greatly; it especially provided number of opportunities to develop professionally and to play an important role in the scientific community. Some of these experiences include teaching short courses, participating and contributing as a member of the Books and Special Publications Committee, associate editor and reviewer of JAOCS, founding member and chair of the Industrial Oil Products Division, editing two AOCS books, a number of publications and book chapters, and chairing technical sessions at the national meetings. Over the years, all these activities helped me to grow my knowledge as a scientist and to take bigger responsibilities in the community.

Can you tell us about your current research?

We are working on developing new and value-added products derived from fats and oils and lignocellulosics. Currently, we are focused on developing bioplasticizers from vegetable oils. Plasticizers are non-volatile organic compounds that impart flexibility to plastic materials. The plasticizers are compounded with plastics, mainly polyvinylchloride or PVC, to enhance their utility in various applications. Petroleum-derived phthalate plasticizers, which are presently used, adversely affect human health and the environment. We successfully developed a class of high-performance plasticizers called fatty acid epoxy estolide esters from soybean oil that can replace petroleum-derived phthalates. The functional performance of fatty acid epoxy estolides are comparable or better than phthalates and are cost competitive.

How do you hope AOCS can help solve the challenge(s) of your research?

AOCS helps researchers around the world by disseminating scientific knowledge and research results through annual meeting presentations, publications and symposia. It also provides an opportunity for scientists to interact face-to-face with their peers at annual meetings. I benefitted from all these AOCS activities. In addition to these, the news and general articles that are current and timely published through INFORM, news briefs and updates enhance the knowledge of the AOCS community. AOCS is instrumental in bringing together the lipid scientists community around the world. Because of the connections established through AOCS, I had the opportunity to visit research labs in various countries and present our research findings.

David Scheuing

David Scheuing

David Scheuing is the 2018 recipient of the Samuel Rosen Memorial Award, which recognizes accomplishments in surfactant chemistry. On Sept. 26, he’ll speak about surfactant science as part of #WebinarWednesday — register. Even if you can’t attend, we’ll send you the recording.

What was your reaction when you learned you’d won the Samuel Rosen Memorial Award?

I was surprised and humbled. I have learned so much from the work of other awardees — both from their published work and from business interactions over the years — and, of course, from Prof. Rosen's writings and numerous talks over the years. This award, to me, celebrates the value of applying solid science to solving everyday practical problems, through hard work and diligence.  

Looking back over your career, are there any research accomplishments that are particularly important to you? What impact do hope these accomplishments have had on the field of surfactant science?

My early work applying Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) in studies of micelle structure comes to mind. I hope the approaches and results obtained reinforce the impact of geometry on the interactions between molecules that are, for thermodynamic reasons, self-assembling into these fascinating structures. FT-IR provides a view that is very complementary to those obtained with other techniques, like nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. I also hope that the application of FT-IR to studies of the interfacial interactions of micellar solutions and solid oils will reinforce the relationship between surfactant-oil-water phase diagrams and phenomena like enhanced oil recovery and the detergency process in your laundry room. The spectroscopic analyses are actually fairly easy to do, and yet tell us about what is going on at the interface as a system tries to move to equilibrium.

I work on consumer cleaning products, including bathroom cleaners. I think my collaboration with Dr. Soontravanich, Prof. Sabatini and Prof. Scamehorn (J. Surfact. Deterg., 2010, 13: 367-372) on the dissolution of calcium stearate, aka "soap scum", stimulated interest in the application of sound surfactant science to this very real, everyday problem that involves both equilibrium phase behavior and interfacial kinetics. 

As an AOCS member, you’ve served as a session chair for AOCS Annual Meetings and as a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for the Journal of Surfactants and Detergents. How has your involvement in AOCS shaped your career?

My service over the years has given me the chance to give back to the field and especially to a wider range of newer workers. A significant part of my job at Clorox is to connect with the outside world, in order to tap into the latest technical advancements in surfactant science and build alliances with suppliers. It is also a core value of Clorox R&D to contribute to the work of organizations connected with the products we sell. We do our part for our industry by helping with the development of training tools for newer workers, as well as influencing the public outreach of organizations. So, my involvement with AOCS has been a great way for me to meet my obligations as a technical leader at Clorox.  

Part of your award nomination recognized the positive impact you’ve had on young scientists through mentoring and coaching. What advice can you offer to young scientists just starting their careers?

My answer is shaped by my industrial experience in the fields of analytical and physical chemistry of surfactants, colloids and polymers. But I must also say I took advantage of training on management and soft skills at Clorox.

Getting to the chemical truth of what something really is, or why it works, and especially, in industrial work, why something doesn’t work can truly help make the world a better place. Science helps society make progress.

When you are starting out, you don’t have to plan your whole career. Focus on solving problems — companies hire because they have problems to be solved with innovation. Not all your ideas or innovations will work but think about what “failure” really is. Failure is not a person. It is an event or outcome. If you’re not failing, you and your employer are not trying hard enough. The key is learning from failure.

Be prepared for lifelong learning. Keep up with your field. Read technically outside your field. Read what technically interests you, even if you are not paid to do it.

Seek out collaboration. The best companies will organize teams and train you in teamwork. Innovation is a team sport so get used to it.

Seek out mentors. What lessons can they teach — both technically and within an organization’s culture?

Do you know yourself at this stage of your career? Your strengths/talents are the things you do that make you feel strong, because they are innate talents you have. Your “opportunities” or “weaknesses” are things that make you feel weak. Build on your strengths — that will work. Collaborate to compensate for your “weaknesses” — they will not change. Do not confuse strengths/talents with skills. The latter can be learned, but the former are inherent to you. There are published tools for this type of personal work, so do it.

People do not quit companies; they quit immediate supervisors/managers. Before you move on ensure you understand all the opportunities of the company (or lack thereof) that are available to you. I have learned much from people I considered poor managers of me. Does your manager try to learn your strengths and help you build on them? Think about whether you would enjoy doing that kind of work yourself as you gain work experience but don’t rush to conclusions.

Approach your career with a “How may I serve?” attitude. You will be surprised by the opportunities that come up for you to consider. You really are in charge of your career but also expect constant change in technology, your employer and the world.

Do you have favorite memories from your time as an AOCS member that you’d like to share?

I can recall many annual AOCS meetings at which I had personal interactions with leaders like Dr. Rosen and many others. I recall asking questions after talks and getting references I could use. I recall technical leaders in the field actually exchanging cards with me! Just the opportunity to interact informally with these leaders was inspiring. I’ve made many new friends in the field before, during and between sessions at the annual meetings. As a presenter, for example, just this year, I recall getting some great, challenging questions after my talk on amine oxides. What more can you ask for — people were engaged in the topic!

I have experienced positive feedback from other talks, which makes the efforts so worthwhile. I’d say that the S&D Division has a culture of open dialog and feedback I really enjoy as a scientist. Actually, saying the Division has that culture really means that the people have created that culture. I think it reflects the broader values of AOCS, focused on scientific rigor applied to important issues in the real, everyday lives of people.

Susan K. Raatz

Susan K. Raatz

Professor Susan K. Raatz is the 2018 recipient of the Ralph Holman Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes significant lifetime and meritorious achievements in areas of interest to the Health and Nutrition Division.

What was your reaction when you learned you’d won the Ralph Holman Lifetime Achievement Award?

I was surprised and very pleased to learn that I was awarded the Ralph Holman Lifetime Achievement Award for 2018. I felt proud of my work and the fact that my peers considered me deserving of this award.

Looking back over your career, are there any research accomplishments that are particularly important to you?

I have performed a number of human feeding studies aimed at determining the appropriate type and amount of dietary lipids to improve human health. I am particularly proud of my first large grant, which provided funds to assess the role of omega-3 fatty acids on the risk of breast cancer. It set the basis for the development of my career in clinical research and for the training of graduate students.

What impact do you hope your research has had on the field of health and nutrition?

I hope that my work is influential in the development of dietary guidance for the public.

Why did you join AOCS?

I joined AOCS at the suggestion of my friend and long-standing AOCS member, Dr. Doug Bibus, as a specialized society where I would be able to closely interact with like-minded researchers and other scientists in the lipids field.

How has being an AOCS member helped shape your career as a nutrition scientist?

AOCS has allowed me to develop collegial relationships with other investigators in my field. It has led to the development of new ideas, research collaborations and new friends.

Megan Hums

Megan Hums

Why did you join AOCS?

I initially became a member of AOCS to attend a meeting. I continue to be a member because of the diversity of research and the ability to get involved. 

Describe your involvement with AOCS (committee work, attendance, and other).

I have attended the annual meeting, am currently the Young Professional Common Interest Group (YP-CIG) secretary, and recently joined the Industrial Oil Products Division. I also helped with planning the joint CIG luncheon at the 2018 meeting.

What have been some of your most meaningful volunteer experiences?

From my first year at AOCS I have had the opportunity to get involved right away. I enjoy volunteering on the YP-CIG board because the members are so full of energy and there are exciting ideas for the future. It is rewarding to see our plans get executed throughout the year and not just stay as ideas at the annual meeting.

Tell us about your work experience since your last degree and explain the connection between your work and this volunteer experience. How has this volunteer experience shaped your professional development?

I obtained my PhD in 2016 from Drexel University in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, working with Dr. Richard Cairncross and Dr. Sabrina Spatari. My thesis was focused on biodiesel production from wastewater greases and their environmental impacts. I am currently a postdoctoral research chemical engineer at the US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, in the Sustainable Biofuels and Co-products unit with Dr. Robert Moreau. My research is focused on waxes extracted from sorghum grain, bran and post-fermentation co-products.

AOCS links my past and present as I develop my career in lipid research. AOCS and volunteering has provided opportunities to meet professionals outside of my research field and to think about other applications and inspire ideas. I have also gained more confidence with communication and collaboration through my various volunteering experiences.

Describe your research and explain what big challenge or problem your work is trying to solve. How do you hope AOCS can help in solving this challenge?

Sorghum wax has similar physical properties to carnauba wax, which is an imported commercial wax. In our laboratory, we are focused on lab-scale extraction and characterization of waxes; however, the physical properties and applications for waxes and scale-up for wax production still need further research. Excitingly, AOCS has provided a platform to present our research, meet and reach out to fellow researchers, and continue our collaborations with academic and industrial partners.

Dr. Raj Shah

Dr. Raj Shah

50-word summary of your professional experience

During my doctorate in chemical engineering at Penn State University, I was involved with research in alternate fuels, oil and additives. I ended up as a Director at Koehler Instrument Company, which is one of the largest manufacturers of oil testing instruments, and I have been here for two decades. Besides AOCS, I am active at the Energy Institute, NLGI and STLE, and I am currently a Fellow at these organizations. I work extensively at ASTM, helping put together new testing standards for oils and have the sui generis distinction of being an Eagle award winner along with a triple award of excellence recipient. I also volunteer on the advisory board of directors of a few universities.

Why did you join AOCS?

Right out of graduate school one of my mentors clued me in on the work AOCS does and the amazing reach the Society has within the oil community. I have been an active member for over 23 years since then.

Describe your involvement with AOCS.

I have mostly been involved with the standard development part of AOCS, specifically the Official Methods and Recommended Practices of the AOCS. I am also involved with the Quality Reference Material work AOCS does, specifically working on procedures to calibrate lab instruments, improving new methods and a range of other lab testing activities. I have also been a reviewer for the Official Methods and Recommended Practices of the AOCS. At AOCS, I am behind the scenes often and have had a low-key approach, but I have found that AOCS is well structured and the folks have always been very welcoming.

Describe your research and explain what big challenge or problem your work is trying to solve. How do you hope AOCS can help in solving this challenge?

Koehler Instrument Company is one of the larger analytical lab instrumentation manufacturers that focuses primarily on tests for the oil industry. Our goal here is to be the one source provider for all the needs of an oil chemist, whether they are doing research or routine quality control work. Lately, we have been doing quite a bit of work on new test method development for biofuels, biolubes and biogreases.

Take renewable environmentally friendly lubricants, for example. In order to have them perform the same way in an engine for instance, they need to have the same qualities as a conventional lube oil that is currently being used for that application. This needs to be verified in the laboratory before these oils are actually used in real life and made available in the market.

In order to do so, bench-scale tests need to be developed that emulate real-life conditions of oxidation and friction and these new lubricants have to be tested in these bench tests and results compared to real-life operating conditions. Our challenge and research are to develop such tests that simulate real working conditions (for these biolubricants in this example).

AOCS, along with ASTM, plays a key part in this. Once we come up with these draft test procedures (and instrument prototypes), numerous volunteers in these organizations will run round-robin testing to check on the plausibility, accuracy, repeatability and reproducibility of these new test techniques before they become official test methods.

My own feeling is that organizations like AOCS have a wonderful group of volunteers and mentors, who over the years have helped me immensely, and I for one strongly encourage, especially the younger members, to make use of the phenomenal networking and learning opportunities that AOCS offers.

Walter Vetter

Walter Vetter

Professor Walter Vetter (University of Hohenheim, Germany) is the 2018 recipient of the Herbert J. Dutton Award. As part of the award, he gave a presentation titled “Searching and finding unusual fatty acids and compounds of the unsaponifiable matter”.

What was your reaction when you learned you’d won the Herbert J. Dutton Award?

I was very excited to receive this prestigious award. It is a great honor.

In your presentation you cite the AOCS Lipid Library as your “first aid kit” when there are problems identifying lipids in “birth goo”. Can you explain why it’s your “first aid kit”?

The AOCS Lipid Library is the primary information source for lipid analysis - and it is free. Whatever analytical technique we are using- MS, NMR or others - the Library has the answer or gives us a point to start with. We regularly check it and compare with our data. It was also great to contribute a small chapter to the AOCS Lipid Library a few years ago.

Can you tell us a little bit about your research?

Our main interests are the analysis of minor fatty acids and compounds of the unsaponifiable matter. We develop analytical methods, try to assign structures to unknown compounds in the samples and try to produce standards for analytical purposes (typically by countercurrent chromatography) and for determination of the bioactivity (in worldwide co-operations).

How do you hope AOCS can help solve this challenge?

Maintaining the standard for analytical methods as high as it is. AOCS provides the platform (the journals, the conference(s), the homepage) to present our findings and to get in touch with colleagues.

Keshun Liu

Keshun Liu

Why did you join AOCS?

This goes back to 1992, when I first joined Hartz Seed, a Unit of Monsanto Co., as a food chemist to work on soybeans. I met Dr. Frank Orthoefer, who was then R&D director for Riceland Food. We lived in the same small Arkansan town. With his recommendation, I joined AOCS without hesitation.

What have been some of your most meaningful volunteer or AOCS member experiences?

I think that involvement with the Proteins and Co-Products Division is one of my most meaningful member experiences. I started serving as a newsletter editor, then member-at-large twice, treasurer/secretary, vice president and finally as president - more than a decade of direct involvement with the Division. Through this experience I have learned leadership skills. Another meaningful experience has been organizing symposia for annual meetings. By doing so, I have invited many prominent protein and oil chemists to speak at AOCS meetings and learned a lot from them. I also recruited quite a few new members.

Tell us about your work experience and explain the connection between your work and this volunteer experience. How has this volunteer experience shaped your career?

Since graduation from Michigan State University with a Ph.D. in food science, my professional work has always been on chemistry, processing and value-added utilization of oilseeds, grains, legumes and other plant materials. AOCS is a natural fit for my work and research interests. My membership and volunteer experiences at AOCS have nourished my knowledge, broadened my connections and shaped my career in many ways. For example, by attending AOCS annual meetings, I learn what peers are doing on oilseeds and other work related to my research, and in return I can conduct my research with more focus and more effective tools. I also become more enthusiastic in doing my research. In another example, the achievement awards I received, such as the AOCS Award of Merit and AOCS Fellow, brought honor not only to me, but also to my employer as well.

Describe your research and explain what big challenge or problem your work is trying to solve. How do you hope AOCS can help in solving this challenge?

As a research chemist with U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, the main purpose of my research is to develop plant-based proteins for food and feed uses. This work involves basic chemistry, quantitative analysis and development of innovative processing of oilseeds, grains and their co-products. For example, at present, my lab is working on analytical method improvements, which can accurately assay for trypsin inhibitor activity in soy products. Trypsin inhibitors are naturally occurring antinutrients. Because their elimination parallels nutritional improvement in a rat-feeding model, having methods that can accurately measure their activity is important. The AOCS officially approved a standard method for the trypsin inhibitor assay but it still has some flaws and thus needs modifications. Through extensive lab experiments, we have now figured out what improvements are needed. A new manuscript is ready for submission. The next challenge is to make this an official method so that the food and feed industry can use the new method without hesitation. I think AOCS can help solve this challenge, because it has several committees on Methods. I would like to work with the committees once the manuscript on the modified method for trypsin inhibitor assay is published.

Sarah A. Echols

Sarah Echols

50-word summary of your professional experience

Sarah Echols is the Head of Innovation of Sweet Ingredients, North America at CSM Bakery Solutions. She works on innovations of CSM’s sweet ingredients (icings, glazes, toppings, fillings, etc.) along with handling CSM's global fat and flavor portfolio from a technical perspective. Previously, she worked at Barry Callebaut as a Project Manager - Fats and Compounds and at AAK USA as a Research Chemist.

Why did you join AOCS?

I joined AOCS in 2010 as a student member. I joined based on the recommendation of my major professor, Dr. Akoh.

Describe your involvement with AOCS :

I started as an AOCS student member and transitioned into an AOCS young professional. I have been on the Young Professionals Common Interest Group (YP CIG) leadership team since its start in 2014 and am currently co-chairing the YP CIG. I took on the role as Secretary-Treasurer for the Edible Applications Technology (EAT) Division last year and hope to continue as the EAT Division Secretary-Treasurer.

What have been some of your most meaningful volunteer experiences?

My most meaningful AOCS volunteer experience was getting involved in the Young Professionals CIG during its start and helping it evolve into the great CIG it is today!

Tell us about your work experiences since your last degree and explain the connection between your work and this volunteer experience.

My work experience has always remained somehow linked to the fats and oils industry — whether it was working for a fats and oils supplier or managing my company's fats and oils portfolio. AOCS and my volunteer experience have helped me network and remain connected with new research in the industry, which in turn helped me with product development and fats and oils portfolio management. Volunteering in AOCS has greatly shaped my professional development by developing relationships throughout the industry, developing presentation and communication skills, and developing confidence within the fats and oils industry.

Describe your research and explain what big challenge or problem your work is trying to solve. How do you hope AOCS can help in solving this challenge?

A current issue we are looking to solve is how to entrap liquid oil in an icing and/or how to reduce the amount of hard palm fat in icings. At last year's Annual Meeting there were many presentations about oleogels. These presentations led us to look at a few ingredients that we would normally have not looked at. We now have a few options that we will be testing out in application to see if oleogels will be acceptable in icings.

Ismail Hassan Hussein Abdalnabi

Prof Ismail Abdalnabi

50-word summary of your professional experience

I graduated as a chemical engineer from the University of Khartoum (U of K) in Sudan 1971. After graduating, I joined the local vegetable oil and soap industry. I also earned a PhD (March 1982) and conducted research at the Chemical Engineering Department, Aston University, Birmingham, England. Since October 1982, I’ve taught and conducted research at the University of Gezira (UG), serving as Vice Chancellor (VC) for two terms: 2001–2005; 2005–2009. Currently, I’m a professor at the National Oilseed Processing Research Institute (NOPRI), UG.

Why did you join AOCS?

I knew the AOCS through the JAOCS at U of K and the industry. At Aston, it was a major reference, especially during my PhD research. From the Journal, I learnt about the second AOCS World Conference at The Hague in October 1982. At that time, I was hired by UG and was about to travel to Sudan, but delayed that to attend the conference. Up to that time, I was not aware of the importance of joining the Society; however, at The Hague, I met delegates from government, universities and the private sector. A tour of the accompanying exhibition inspired an idea of establishing an oilseed pilot plant at the UG. Having spoken to some delegates about this and about glandless cotton, I felt that the AOCS was where I belonged, so I signed up at the conference, effective January 1983.

Describe your involvement with AOCS:

After The Hague, I joined the Department of Applied Chemistry and Chemical Technology (ACC), Faculty of Science and Technology (FST), UG. At the ACCT, I presented the pilot plant proposal in December 1982 to UG. A research group was formed from ACCT, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences (FAS), UG, and the Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC), Ministry of Agriculture. Activities included MSc and PhD research, in addition to presentations at local and international seminars and conferences. A notable example of the activities in this group is the establishment of NAPRECA, the Natural Products Research Network for East and Central Africa. Through ACCT involvement, Sudan was a founding member in July 1984. NAPRECA is now a UNESCO affiliate and is doing a great job in research and training of African scientists. A link with Upsala University, Sweden, was also one of the activities of this group, and the late Professor Lars Appelqvist was instrumental to its success.

Meanwhile, contacting AOCS members revealed that Ed Lusas was also establishing a pilot plant for oilseed extraction and oil refining at College Station, Texas. An invitation from Dr. Lusas enabled me to join the Food Protein R&D Center (now the Process Engineering R&D Center, PERC) at College Station, Texas A&M University. There, I worked with him and KC Rhee on castor pomace detoxification. In addition to the knowledge I gained, a discussion with Ed Lusas about our pilot plant proposal was of great value. He advised establishing a center for oilseed processing research and indicated the importance of such a center for the whole of Africa. Thus, a Center was established at FST-UG in 1990, which was promoted to NOPRI in 1994. All of this was achieved because of the networking that was made possible by joining the Society.

The international exposure brought by attending AOCS conferences also resulted in new areas of cooperation. The JAOCS carried news about the progress of PORIM, the Palm Oil Institute of Malaysia, changed to MPOB, Malaysian Palm Oil Board, since 2000. Our contact with PORIM started in 1993. Having attended all PORIM courses, I enrolled in the second Intensive Diploma of Oil Palm Management and Technology (IDOPMT) in July 2000, with the intention of becoming a full-time oil palm technologist. I passed the IDOPMT, but those intentions were interrupted by my appointment as VC of UG. However, NOPRI went on to strengthen its oil palm research by establishing the Oil Palm Research Center within the Institute, and made new links with the University of Malaya on oil palm hybrids. Now, NOPRI has a model one-acre oil palm farm. This is vital to NOPRI in its research on oil-bearing trees, which form an important source of vegetable oil in a number of Sudanese States.

What have been some of your most meaningful AOCS experiences?

I have attended a number of AOCS conferences and each brought a new experience. However, my recent visit to the AOCS HQ in Urbana stands out as the one memorable experience. For a start, it was pleasing to know how well the idea of the visit was received. The meeting itself was well prepared, the level of attendance was high and the discussion was immensely useful. There was a feeling that everyone was eager to help in our endeavor to establish an AOCS African Section. The support gained from the meeting enabled us to proceed confidently and establish new contacts.

Tell us about your work/job function and explain the connection between your work and how being involved with AOCS has shaped your career or brought value back to the workplace?

I have assumed a number of responsibilities within UG: from head ACCT, to deputy dean FST, to dean FST, to dean NOPRI, to VC of UG. The networking experience gained through AOCS was a great help to me in all those positions. The journals and AOCS Press books also provided valuable information, especially for graduate research.

The AOCS exposure was an asset in our dealing with international organizations. Our fundraising efforts led us to the Islamic Development Bank, IDB, Jeddah; a grant of $285,000 was approved to NOPRI and our staff followed it to completion. This was how the pilot plant was setup, the labs modernized and staff training abroad made possible. A special tribute must be paid here to the late engineer Raad Dafallah and Dr. Atif Yasin for their crucial role in making the project a success.

Our knowledge about United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service Centers came through JAOCS and conference meetings. This helped us model NOPRI branches in north, northeast, southeast, and west Sudan. The aim is to decentralize research and bring more contributions from those rural areas, in addition to coordinating with local government and the local oilseed industry in their regions.

The Library at NOPRI includes AOCS journals and books, in addition to MPOB books and literature. It is certainly the only specialized oils and fats library in Sudan and is providing an important service to researchers and graduate students. NOPRI also uses AOCS methods in its research and in its service to industry. Recently, NOPRI was recognized as a center of excellence by the Sudanese Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research; one of the reasons cited was the excellence of the library and its being up-to-date through AOCS journals, books, and electronic AOCS books and journals.

Describe your research and explain what big challenge or problem your work is trying to solve. How do you hope AOCS can help in solving this challenge?

Research at NOPRI studies oils from varied sources for varied uses. The sources include annuals, perennials (shrubs and trees) and other sources such as insects. These may be used for food, biofuel, medical or pharmaceutical purposes. The sources may be established oilseed crops or ones that are unconventional or underutilized. My main area of research investigates developing new oil sources as well as new uses for other sources. Special attention is paid to aromatic plants, for their importance in international trade, especially Basil, Ocimum basilicum. Tree oils are also finding increased interest. A new research area deals with oils from horticultural crops, such as onions and carrots; reports indicate high levels of antioxidants in those oils.

Glandless cotton is an important area of research at NOPRI. Low-gossypol seeds yield a safe oil and a high-quality protein. Our main emphasis is to use this valuable food source for fighting hunger and alleviating poverty and malnutrition in children in rural areas. This entails activating NOPRI branches in those areas to rally support from the local communities for this noble goal.

The study of pesticide residues in oilseeds and their products is one of our major concerns, because they pose a major public health risk. Research on castor falls under this category.

Our work on the Africa Section introduced us to the PeanutBase and the International Peanut Community. This is an exciting new networking area, which we intend to utilize fully.

Graduate research at NOPRI does not include courses; a committee was recently set up by the VC of UG to look into introducing postgraduate diploma and masters via courses and a dissertation in oilseed science and technology. If this is achieved, it is expected to enable NOPRI to better serve the industry as well as those interested in oils and fats research and attract international students.

An oilseeds incubator has always been high on NOPRI's agenda. This was recently approved by the Sudanese Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. It would make more people linked to investment and research in oilseeds and their products.

A special challenge is to translate our findings and those in the literature into the Arabic language; this would create wider coverage and enable those who have no access to English to keep informed. The AOCS Latin American Section offers a similar encouraging model.

The AOCS can certainly play a vital role through networking. inform|connect represents such a possibility. In addition, the Society can help by asking interested members to contribute ideas or suggestions to AOCS platforms. This would spread the word and make more people aware of how to help.

Dennis Murphy

Dennis Murphy

What is your interest and/or research area?

All aspects of laundry cleaning and fabric softening technology — this includes fundamental studies to applied research. These two areas have been well researched but there is never a lack of new technical challenges, which keeps things interesting.

What part of the Annual Meeting are you looking forward to the most?

The cold water cleaning session. This area has the most potential to positively impact sustainability as well as improve financial aspects of the laundering process for individuals.

What are the benefits of AOCS membership to you?

First, the networking opportunities it affords are very important to me. Second, the ability to see new findings as they are shared and ask questions about that research in an interactive setting is also important.

How has AOCS membership impacted your career?

By being able to share my results with the broader scientific community, I gain recognition both outside and inside my company. The awards AOCS gives out are well respected in the industry - having been a recipient of the Samuel Rosen Memorial Award was not only an honor for me but also brought prestige to my company.