Member Spotlight: Meet Hari Kotapati

Member Spotlight is a regular INFORM magazine column that features members who play critical roles in AOCS.

Hari Kotapati in August 2020 at Glacier Nastional Park Mountain in Montana (USA)
Hari Kotapati in August 2020 at Glacier Nastional Park Mountain in Montana (USA
Fast Facts
Name Hari Kiran Kotapati
Joined AOCS 2018
Education Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA)
Job title Postdoctoral associate, USDA–ARS BHNRC–MAFCL
Employer University of Maryland College Park (College Park, Maryland, USA)
Current AOCS involvement Secretary, Young Professional Common Interest involvement Group


What’s a typical day like for you?

My day starts very early and I am usually at work by 8:15 A.M. at the latest. I spend the first half-hour catching up on emails, science news, and just-published research papers in my field. Then I get back to the workbench in the lab unless I am working on writing. If weather permits, I usually take a 15-minute walk after lunch, and then it is back to the lab to finish things up before the end of the day.

My favorite part of my job is…

The problem-solving aspect and, most importantly, learning something new almost every day.

Flash back to when you were 10 years old. What did you want to be when you grew up?

Growing up in India, I always wanted to be an officer in the civil administrative services, which is very difficult to get into. I gave up on that dream when I discovered my true passion for science during my high school years.

Why did you decide to do the work you are doing now?

I just started my new job at the United States Department of Agriculture–Methods and Application of the Food Composition Laboratory to work on the analysis of lipids from cows’ milk. There are two main reasons I would like to emphasize for choosing my current job. First, I grew up on a farm in rural India and spent my holidays working on the farm and helping my parents in any way I could. So, research related to agriculture always has a special place in my heart. Second, I am super excited to be working under the guidance of Craig Byrdwell, a world-renowned expert in the field of lipid analysis.

What event, person, or life experience has had the most influ- ence on the direction of your life?

My maternal grandmother Srimati Rukma Bai, who passed away about four years ago right before my Ph.D. defense. At one point, she sat me down and convinced me to go to college after I had decided not to pursue college education after high school.



How do you relax after a hard day of work?

Regardless of how busy my day is at work, I try to finish off by either working out or going for a quick run. I find running to be a great way to relieve stress, especially after a hectic workday.

What is the most impressive thing you know how to do?

Backing up a tractor with an attached trailer. I learned this when I was about 19 years old on my dad’s farm. It took almost three years for me to learn how to do it perfectly. Although I have not driven a tractor in over a decade, I think I could still do it.

What skill would you like to master?

Cooking authentic biriyani (a South Indian dish). I have been cooking (mostly Indian food) for the last 15 years or so, and I can cook a decent biriyani.

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