Adriana M. Chavez
LAS CRUCES – Gone are the dated counters and cabinets that used to be a former laboratory room of the Family and Consumer Sciences Department of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, located at the interior of New Mexico State University’s Gerald Thomas Hall.
Where students once crammed into what was primarily a kitchen-like environment, it is now a clean, white, and spacious science lab where graduate students can now conduct their research and have new equipment at their disposal. scope.
Departmental research also benefits from the new lab, said Efren Delgado, assistant professor of food science and technology in the department of family and consumer sciences.
“We called it the orange kitchen,” Delgado joked. “At the time, it was more focused on the concept of home economics lessons, so the students learned how to cook. It’s a totally new concept now.
Renovations began in February 2019 for the new Food Microbiology Lab, which houses courses for the Food Science and Technology and Human Nutrition programs. The renovations were completed in time for classes starting in fall 2019.
Funding for the renovations has come from the university, but the department is currently seeking a donor interested in nominating the lab and providing funds for new equipment.
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“Students now have access to pressurized gas and a vacuum that they can use for lectures and for research,” Delgado said. “We have more space because we used to share a food chemistry and microbiology laboratory. Now we have separate labs so that students can do different kinds of research in different labs. We avoid cross-contamination from the food microbiology laboratory to the chemical laboratory and vice versa. “
The lab also helped Delgado work with students on some of his research. Currently, Delgado and his research team are working with the cotton and Chilean industries on the extraction of bioactive compounds from industrial waste.
“We take the waste that these industries produce and extract the phenolic compounds, such as cottonseed protein,” Delgado said.
Their research led to the development of a new non-GMO protein that can be used as a substitute for animal protein in food products. Delgado is also conducting research with aquaculture, developing new food products for shrimp.
“We are replacing all the shrimp meal with vegetable protein from cotton. We have positive results right now, ”said Delgado. “We have very good growth in shrimp. Now that we have reached this level, we are going to analyze how the new plant protein affects the shrimp microbiota, whether it changes or not, and whether it affects the fatty acid content of the final shrimp product and the distribution of acids. amines in shrimp muscle.
A Delgado and Ph.D. project in plant sciences. Student Govinda Sapkota is working on extracting phenolic compounds from jujube fruit, which is native to Asia, to create new functional foods that can help prevent certain types of cancer or even high blood pressure.
“We take the phenolic compounds from jujube, which is one of the fruits with the highest amount of phenolic compounds, we extract them and we microencapsulate these compounds to protect them from oxidation so that they can be active for a long time. period of time, ”Delgado said. “Once they are protected, we can incorporate it into food products such as salami or hamburger type meats, and baked goods or even tortilla products, which will contain a high amount of phenolic compounds, d antioxidants and healthy products. “
Sapkota has been working with Delgado on his research since he started his PhD. two years ago. Sapkota says jujube is a new crop in New Mexico and is very beneficial to human health.
“My project is basically dealing with the nutrient dynamics in jujube with different maturity statuses, at which stages of maturity the nutrient is highest in jujubes,” Sapkota said. “I’m also comparing the nutrient content of jujubes from different places in New Mexico, including Leyendecker, Los Lunas, and Alcalde.”
The research project is carried out in cooperation with Associate Professor NMSU and Fruit Extension Specialist Shengrui Yao.
“EYE ON RESEARCH” is provided by New Mexico State University. This week’s article was written by Adriana M. Chávez of University Communications. Adriana M. Chávez can be reached at 575-646-1957, [email protected]
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