Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX human nutrition professor receives national funding for food chemistry research

August 12th, 2019
StFX human nutrition professor Dr. Marcia English
StFX human nutrition professor Dr. Marcia English

Innovative food chemistry research on the StFX campus received a big boost with the news that human nutrition professor Dr. Marcia English has received nearly $200,000 in research funds.

Dr. English has received a $88,626 John R. Evans Leaders Fund award from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to purchase research equipment for her project, “Food Chemistry Research Platform for Investigating Aroma-active Compound Interactions in Plant-based Proteins.” She has also received $88,626 in matching funds from Research Nova Scotia.

The funding is part of over $61 million that the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, recently announced for state-of-the-art research labs and equipment through the CFI’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund. The investment supports 261 projects at 40 universities across Canada.

“The research infrastructure investments by CFI and the Province of Nova Scotia are critical to the establishment of Dr. English’s research program,” says Dr. Richard Isnor, StFX VP Research and Graduate Studies. “Our students also benefit from the opportunity to use state-of-the-art research equipment in research projects undertaken in Dr. English’s lab.”

Dr. English says receiving the grant is important and exciting as it allows her to bring new equipment to the university to provide new research opportunities.

“The combined funding from CFI and Research Nova Scotia has provided a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer with olfactory detection (GC-MS/O) and a preparative chromatography system for protein purification to support food chemistry research at StFX,” she says.

The GC-MS/O will allow Dr. English and her research group to establish correlations between the chemical nature of specific aroma and off-flavour compounds from leguminous plant sources with the human perception of smell.

In addition, the protein purification system will enable the team to extract and purify key proteins from these plant sources, and study their biochemical interactions with aroma compounds.

“This equipment is very timely since there has been an increased interest to replace and/or reduce the levels of animal protein with plant-based proteins in traditional and novel food products,” Dr. English says.

“Moreover, this equipment has provided new opportunities to train undergraduate and graduate students at StFX with interdisciplinary skills in protein and flavour chemistry, which will be beneficial for various placements in the food industry.”

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