Ismail Lab and PPIC Fall 2023 cropped

Ismail Lab and PPIC 2023 members, from left to right: Back row - Brittany Kralik, Medora Creek, Coleman Selfridge, Nigel Kang, Alisa Smovzhenko, Sarra Grazza, Anastasia Natania, Serap Vatansever; Middle row - Christopher Sherve, Taylor Otness, Jeanne Goh, Abbie Krentz, Charu Gupta, Yi Chen, Samira Feyzi, Dr. Pam Ismail (principle investigator), Karthik Pandalaneni, Sima Saeidy, Katie Engel, Shreevats Mor, Samara Silva Pituco, Allie Boerboom, Andressa Maria Suzin, Saajewa Dasent-Swygart; Front row - Mathias Gunawan, Kavan O'Rourke, Emily Nelson, Tina Miao, Caleb Denny, Michelle Langnickel, Madison Stoltzman. 

Want to learn more about our research?

Our research mainly focuses on chemical characterization and enhancement of functionality, safety, bioavailability, delivery, and bioactivity of food proteins, following novel processing and analytical approaches. Our lab has historically targeted proteins from common sources, including soy, wheat, whey, and casein. However, novel plant-based proteins are in demand more than ever before, warranting further research to allow for their successful incorporation in various food applications to appease both industry and the consumer. Thus, many of our research efforts align with the research priorities and mission of the Plant Protein Innovation Center.  Our research efforts involve structural and functional characterization of proteins from several plant sources including pulses, oilseeds (including hemp), cereal grains, leaves, among other novel sources. We often collaborate with breeders and geneticists to study protein characteristics across different breeding lines in an effort to develop varieties of superior protein properties and not just quantity. Furthermore, because the functionality of plant-based proteins can be inferior to animal derived protein, we research ways to improve functionality and thermal stability of plant-based proteins, following several upstream and downstream processing, including optimization of protein extraction methods and several protein modification approaches. The protein modification technologies we research include enzymatic, non-thermal processing, and other natural protein modification such as Maillard-induced glycation.

Beyond novel plant proteins, our lab also added sustainable crops to its repertoire. Most notably, we have been researching perennial and short-season winter crops including intermediate wheatgrass grains (grains related to wheat), winter pea, pennycress, camelina, and flax. These crops have excellent environmental benefits, among them reduced soil and water erosion, increased carbon sequestration, and reduced nitrogen leaching. Through a collaborative effort with geneticists, breeders, and agronomists, we are ultimately working to see them commercialized as sources of functional and stable ingredients for different food applications.