Being an Undergraduate Research Scholar has already paid off for Kiyonna Williams, and she doesn’t even graduate until Saturday.
Williams, a food and nutritional science student with a concentration in food science, worked with Reza Tahergorabi, Ph.D to measure the physiochemical properties of surimi – minced fish that can be flavored and molded into different shapes – mixed with sweet potato starch.
There’s evidence that whole grains can help prevent chronic disease, but there aren’t accurate tools to measure beneficial compounds from whole grains in the body. To better understand the effects of whole grains on health, biomarkers for their exposure and effects are needed.
Shengmin Sang, Ph.D., a food scientist with North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, has received a $2.8 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institutes of Food and Agriculture to change that. He will work with his research partners to identify biomarkers for whole grain wheat and oats.
A pair of CAES researchers recently claimed noteworthy prizes in the inaugural Innovation for Impact Grand Prize, co-sponsored by SoBran Bioscience and the Piedmont Triad Office of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.
Dr. Shengmin Sang, associate professor and a lead scientist at the Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies, claimed the top prize of $11,000 for his research on ginger’s ability to mitigate the abrasive properties of aspirin and increase its efficacy. His patented ginger compound may also be effective in preventing colon and other cancers.
The bulk of the award will be used to conduct a pre-clinical research study, and $1,000 in cash is awarded directly to the scientist. Sang’s work emerged from the research of among 17 entrants, whose application mission was to demonstrate how their research would “heal, fuel or feed the world in the future.”
Four other scientists from North Carolina universities were also awarded prizes of $500 each, including Dr. Hye Won Kang, assistant research professor of family and consumer sciences. Kang is researching ways to reduce obesity i in humans. She is using the gut bacterium Akkermansia muciniphila to reduce adipose or fat deposits by increasing the metabolic activity of brown adipose tissue. Kang’s lab is testing the effect of Akkermansia muciniphila in mice to evaluate its potential effectiveness for helping decrease and prevent human obesity.
A journal within the American Chemical Society (ACS) has presented its Research Article of the Year Award to a study of wheat bran by Dr. Shengmin Sang, professor and lead scientist for functional foods at the Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies (CEPHT) at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis/.
The study, “Oxyphytosterols as Active Ingredients in Wheat Bran Suppress Human Colon Cancer Cell Growth: Identification, Chemical Synthesis, and Biologic Evaluation” was published in the February 2015 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, one of the ACS’s publications coordinated by its Division of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
The study and the award it garnered from ACS, one of the world’s most influential scientific societies, are further evidence that wheat bran should be an important part of a healthy diet. The bran component of wheat and other grains has long been recognized for preventing colon cancer, but little has been known about the active components. Sang’s study sheds much light on understanding what components in wheat bran are the most powerful. It provides a comprehensive chemical profile of wheat bran, and pinpoints many compounds in it that prevent colon cancer cells from proliferating, and, even better, compounds that induce cancer cells to die. In order to study their effects, Sang purified 21 compounds from wheat, three of which he reported as novel compounds. Sang then synthesized nine of the compounds, and studied their biological effects on two colon cancer lines, and identified several of the oxyphytosterols that had significant anticancer effects.
The award comes with an invitation for Sang to lecture on this topic at the 252nd ACS National Meeting, Aug. 21-25, in Philadelphia, Pa. In addition to having his travel and lodging costs covered, Sang will be presented with a plaque and check for $1,000.
The study was funded by USDA. Co-authors are Dr. Yingdong Zhu, research associate in the Sang lab, and Dominique Soroka, a research technician in Sang’s functional foods laboratory at CEPHT.
In addition to studying wheat bran, Sang also studies the chemistry of ginger, tea, rosemary and other grain brans and their bioactivity and function in human health. He has recently patented an aspirin and ginger derivative for the prevention of colon cancer.
Dr. Leonard L. Williams has been named director of the SAES’s Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies (CEPHT), at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, effective December 1.
Most recently, Williams served as interim director, professor of food sciences, and lead scientist for food safety and microbiology for CEPHT, which is administered by the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and is a key partner at the North Carolina Research Campus. The Center extends N.C. A&T’s land-grant mission of learning, outreach and research to improve education, the state’s economy and human health. Its focus areas are food safety, functional foods, food engineering and nutritional immunology.
Williams obtained his Ph.D. in food science specializing in microbiology from Alabama A&M University in 2000. From 2000-2008, he served as assistant professor and associate professor of food microbiology and immunochemistry in A&M’s Department of Food and Animal Sciences. He joined the faculty of N.C. A&T in 2008 as lead scientist for food safety and microbiology at CEPHT. In addition to his doctorate in food science, Williams also holds an MBA from Wake Forest University which he earned earlier this year, and also has a master’s in animal health sciences from A&T.
A pair of SAES students who share a last name (though unrelated) are also sharing the spotlight for some relatively rare accomplishments.
William Rowe, who is on schedule to receive a bachelor’s in nutrition next spring, distinguish was invited to make a poster presentation covering his research work in Washington, and then to attend a reception where members of Congress were also on the guest list. The “Posters on the Hill,” presentations are coordinated by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) annually to underscore that the benefits of undergraduate research represent a two-way street with takeaways for both students and the institutions they attend. Rowe, whose research presentation of a “Practical Approach To Reduce Lactose Intolerance Amongst African American Populations” was mentored by Dr. Salam Ibrahim, received a personal compliment from Mary Pat Twomey, the CUR’s manager for student programs. Only 60 participants are selected each year from some 600 applicants from colleges and universities throughout the United States with proposals for presenting their research to Congressional representatives.
This fall the University of North Carolina at Greensboro will become a national pilot site for ThinkHouseU, an innovative residential program for budding entrepreneurs, and one of the seven students selected to be part of the innovative residential program is Wes Rowe, an SAES fashion design and merchandising student. Rowe and the seven UNCG students selected for the program will live in a house near the UNCG campus renovated to serve as student housing that will give them convenient access to mentors as well as learning and networking events that will help them cultivate their ideas and accelerate their own leadership development. ThinkHouseU Fellows will also receive complimentary memberships to HQ Greensboro, a co-work space for startups in downtown Greensboro that is less than a mile from ThinkHouseU.
Three members of the Family and Consumer Sciences faculty are authors of an article in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences. Drs. Sung-Jin Lee, Meeshay Williams-Wheeler, and Jane Walker’s “Assessing Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Students’ Familiarity with the FCS-BOK [Body of Knowledge]” is scheduled for publication in Volume 107 Issue 2, of the journal. As Family and Consumer Sciences instructors at HBCUs have more fully integrated the discipline’s body of knowledge into their curricula, differing impacts have become measureable. The SAES team’s findings were that areas of study and class rank were significant factors in students’ familiarity with cross cutting themes of the FCS-BOK.
The May 22, issue of the Triad Business Journal ran a story beneath the headline “Governor, biotech advocates seek more early-stage funding resources” that was accompanied by a page-dominating photo appropriately captioned: “Dr. Jianmei Yu … a research scientist at N.C. A&T State University’s School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, has developed a process to treat peanuts to reduce the allergens. Here [and pictured], she works with graduate students Ivy Smith … and [SAES] research assistant Razakou Maman.”
The article laments that because a new biotech funding resource (in both the gubernatorial House Appropriations Committee tentative budgets) will steer support for commercialization of research advances to Triad entities while “schools like A&T will have to work hard to get technologies like its allergen-reduced peanut to market,” and supports the contention with a laud for the work of Yu’s research team as something that made a “big splash last summer when the technology was licensed to Xemerge.”
The profitability of fruit and vegetable production has become considerably contingent on quality assured post-harvest handling, and the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) is responding with a pair of workshops focused on the latest technologies and approaches to extending shelf-life for fresh produce. A half-day introductory course, recommended for growers making initial forays into market to wholesale distributors, is scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m., Thursday May 21 at the Catawba County Extension Center. The workshop has a $10 registration fee and a May 18 registration deadline. The workshop leaders will be Trish Tripp, the wholesaler liaison for the CEFS’s NC Growing Together project and Dr. George Wilson of the teaching faculty in the Horticultural Science Department at N.C. State.
Tripp and Wilson will also team up for a more comprehensive, full-day workshop covering “Advanced Postharvest Handling for Enhanced Shelf Life on Tuesday, June 2 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Forsyth County Extension Center in Winston-Salem. The program will be geared to Extension agents who are assisting growers expanding into wholesale markets as well as growers interested in product quality technologies for extending shelf life for competitive advantages in marketing fresh produce. The registration fee for the Forsyth County workshops is $35, and the registration deadline is May 28.
Dr. Jianmei Yu, a research scientist with the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, was invited to make a presentation covering her research into “The chemistry of enzyme-based methods to reduce allergen level in peanuts” at a meeting of the Central North Carolina Section of the American Chemical Society. Yu’s research and the licensing agreement with a Canadian company for the patented process it spawned have been story subjects for a number of health-news websites, newspapers, business journals and TV stations. Her March address at the North Carolina Section of the American Chemical Society was between a February invitation to the founding dean of the School of Health Sciences at Winston-Salem State University, Dr. Sylvia A. Flack, and an April keynote by Dr. Frank B. Carver, the coordinator of the Environmental Science Technology Program at Forsyth Technical Community College.
The American Chemical Society Scholars Program awards renewable scholarships annually of as much as $5,000 to minority students with plans to pursue careers in fields related to chemistry, and the 2015-16 application window closes the first day of March. The "acceptable major" list includes food science, nutrition and veterinary medicine. High school seniors, and college freshmen, sophomores and juniors are eligible to apply. Individual awards depend on the availability of funding and applicants’ financial needs, but typical scholarship awards are $2,500 to freshmen; $3,000 to sophomores; and $5,000 to juniors and seniors.
To be eligible for a scholarship from the ACS Scholars Program, applicants must be full-time students and African American, Latino or American Indian; have a GPA of 3.0 or better; and meet standards for financial need established in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA) and the Student Aid Report (SAR) form. Career objectives, leadership ability, participation in school activities and community service are also considerations for the Scholars Program awards.
Yu’s SAES Web page is also updated to include complete details on the university’s agreement with Xemerge, a Toronto-based company that now has licensing for the patented process developed by Yu and other SAES scientists that underpins Alrgn Bio, a company spun off from the partnership at the Gateway University Research Park. Yu and her colleagues are continuing research to make "peanuts as close to hypoallergenic as possible, and eventually lead to baby formula … and other treated peanut products."
A&T website visitors who haven’t noticed the arrow at the far right picture on the splash page now have added incentive check out the complete lineup, as the new rotation also includes Rodrigo Nogueira de Sousa, an agricultural engineering major. Sousa is from a Brazilian farm family and has his sights set on graduate degrees from A&T. He is currently an exchange student from the 15,000-student Vicosa University.
The SAES’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) was recently informed that the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) approved accreditation of its undergraduate programs for another 10 years. The next full review won’t be needed until 2024. The department is the largest of the SAES’s four academic units and has been a unit within the School since its inception in 1932-33. The department was first accredited by the AAFCS in 1984 and has successfully maintained its accreditation for 30 years. The department is among 47 programs nationwide with AAFCS accreditation. It is currently one of three AAFCS-accredited programs in the North Carolina and the only one at an HBCU in the state.
AAFCS accreditation standards reflect evaluations of the range of faculty expertise, and research and program effectiveness in preparing students for furthering their educations and professional advancement. The AAFCS Council for Accreditation criteria for program assessment now extends to community service learning, undergraduate research opportunities and other contemporary standards for globalizing family and consumer sciences courses and programs.
Annie’s Homegrown, an organic snack and meal company that was purchased by General Mills for $820 Million in September, has a Jan. 5 deadline for $100,000 in scholarships for students studying sustainable or organic agriculture. Undergraduate and graduate students studying at accredited colleges and universities in the United States are eligible to apply. An official transcript and two letters of recommendation must accompany applications.
An SAES graduate student, Dana Lucas, was one of 15 students from colleges and universities across the United States selected for scholarships for the 2014 Consumer Food Safety Education Conference in Arlington, Va., the first week of December. Lucas has already received a master’s in food and nutritional sciences from the SAES, and is now at work on a second master’s, in agricultural education with a concentration in professional services. A&T’s sister land grants with students selected for the 15 scholarships were Clemson, the University of Connecticut, Iowa State, the University of Missouri, Penn State, and the University of Minnesota.
The conference drew food-safety educators and researchers to northern Virginia for a slate of workshops and discussions led by internationally recognized authorities on food-safety and behavioral-health issues. The workshop lineup included sessions devoted to strategies for managing social media when food-safety issues go viral, food-safety risks emanating from ordering meat and seafood online, consumer education at farmers markets, integrating food-safety education into STEM curriculums, and online food-safety education for school gardens and university farms.
A poster prepared by an SAES scientist, Dr. Jianmei Yu, that summarizes her research into “Polyphenol extractability and digestibility of grape pomace as affected by particle size” was one of only 40 accepted for the Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society (SERMACS). Yu, who has done extensive research on grape pomace, an underutilized byproduct of wine production, reported that her research team has found that the particle size of grape pomace, which is rich in antioxidants and dietary fiber, has considerable bearing on the ease with which beneficial plant chemicals can be extracted and digested. The overall goal of her research into grape pomace is to develop its potential for use in food or supplements. Yu is also one of the researchers who developed a technology for allergen-reduced peanuts that resulted in A&T’s third spinoff company, Alrgn Bio. She now serves as chief science consultant for the company, which operates at Gateway University Research Park near the A&T campus. In the wake of her success with peanut allergens, Yu has gone on to conduct research into wheat allergens that has also produced promising results.
The SERMACS in mid-October was the 66th, and brought together professionals in life sciences, engineering and other disciplines with chemistry roots for technical programs, poster sessions and a plenary address by Sir Harry Kroto, a Nobel Prize winner, knighted for his contributions to chemistry with 36 honorary degrees.
News of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at North Carolina A&T State University