Member Spotlight: Meet Jake Olson

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

What was the most challenging issue that you personally faced in your career?

Navigating through college and graduate school were big challenges for me. All too often I found myself in a nebulous area where my understanding of science was constantly changing. Learning to embrace the unknown became a central theme for me and I believe that mindset helps drive my career forward.

What is the biggest challenge you see in food science today?

For me, working in plant-based products, analytical chemistry is critical for product development and can be especially challenging when working with new plant cultivars. Off-the-shelf testing for well-established vegetable oil or protein-yielding crops is common but those established methods may not be suitable for novel materials. Establishing confidence in analytical methods requires creative collaboration with internal and external teams. AOCS has been an amazing resource for finding the right analytical partners, and access to AOCS Official Test Methods has been extremely valuable for product development.

What excites you about your work?

I love the idea of developing disruptive products to create positive change for human and environmental health. I’ve been fortunate at Terviva, where I can apply my research skills within the areas I’m passionate about. I get a lot of satisfaction out of traversing the rigors of product development in the natural products space. I’m currently researching high-impact applications for products developed from the Pongamia tree. I get to explore food, feed, fuel, and bio-actives, which I think is pretty much a culmination of all my education. We’re in an exciting space and I couldn’t be more optimistic about the future health of our planet.

How long have you been an AOCS member?

I’ve been an AOCS member for 7 years now in the Health & Nutrition division. I’ve enjoyed every moment of it and have met incredible people. More recently, I’ve taken on a role within our division’s executive steering committee to help support communications and planning.

How has AOCS helped during your career?

The AOCS has helped me with several key things as a young professional trying to establish a career. The professional relationships that AOCS has helped foster have been invaluable and I never have a dull moment catching up with people at the Annual Meeting. Also, the AOCS staff are the foundation of our success. They’re great at keeping me engaged (and on task) and have been a big part of my professional development. Lastly, AOCS resources are a mainstay for me with so much accessible information on all things in and around lipids.

What do you like to do outside of work/AOCS?

As a recently minted Californian, I spend a lot of time staying home catching up with friends and family to avoid traffic... As a former Montanan, I yearn for outdoor adventuring and try to get out hiking as much as possible. After roughly a decade in Wisconsin, cheese continues to make up around 75% of my diet, but I think that will work out ok.

Joined AOCS 2016
Education BS in Cellular & Molecular Biology, Montana Technological University PhD in Molecular & Environmental Toxicology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Job title Senior Manager, Team Lead, Products & Processing
Employer Terviva Inc., Alameda, CA
Current AOCS role Member of Executive Steering Committee, H&N Division
Jake Olson
Jake Olson (center) as “Lakshman” in Terviva’s re-enactment of the Hindu story of Diwali.

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