Ismail Lab 2022 members, from left to right: Back row - Nigel Kang, Brittany Kralik, Coleman Selfridge, Leslie Loehr, Serap Vatansever, Alisa Smovzhenko, Holly Husband, Christopher Sherve, Anastasia Natania, Ronit Mandal; Middle row - Saajewa Dasent-Swygart, Samira Feyzi, Abbie Krentz, Jeanne Goh, Charu Gupta, Dr. Pam Ismail (principle investigator), Karthik Pandalaneni, Allie Boerboom, Yi Chen, Madhvi Singh, Andressa Maria Suzin; Front row - Shreevats Mor, Mathias Gunawan, Madison Stoltzman, Kavan O'Rourke, Emily Nelson, Tina Miao.
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.