An Interview with Dr. Pam Ismail

Dr. Ismail has over 20 years of experience in food chemistry research focused on analytical and protein chemistry.

Dr. Pam Ismail

Professor, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota

Pam Ismail

Dr. Pam Ismail will present "Developing Camelina and Pennycress as Sustainable Sources of Functional Proteins" during the session on Plant Proteins and Sustainability on Friday, October 23.

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About Dr. Pam Ismail

Dr. Pam Ismail is a Professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota. She is the founder and director of the Plant Protein Innovation Center. Dr. Ismail has over 20 years of experience in Food Chemistry research focused on analytical chemistry, protein chemistry and chemistry and the fate of bioactive food constituents. Her research focuses on chemical characterization and enhancement of functionality, safety, bioavailability and bioactivity of food proteins, following novel processing and analytical approaches. She is the recipient of a “Distinguished Teaching Award” and an “Outstanding Professor Award”.

What discoveries from your previous research inform the work you plan to discuss at the Plant Protein Science and Technology Forum?

We have optimized extraction conditions to produce isolates with acceptable yield and purity, and with preserved structural properties and acceptable functionality in comparison to traditional protein ingredients. We are also working on characterizing flavor development during the isolation process to limit any off flavor in the final product.

What is the significance of the research you plan to discuss at the Plant Protein Science and Technology Forum, either for future research routes or for real-world applications?

A breeding program that aims to successfully adapt sustainable and environmentally friendly crops as edible protein sources for food applications will use the information we are collecting. The information will also be useful for industrial production of functional proteins from such sources.

Describe the biggest problem you encountered and solved during your most recent project?

Proteins are entangled in a highly complex matrix, post-oil extraction. Extraction protocol was carefully and systematically optimized to enhance yield and purity in an industry-feasible manner.

Share a turning point or defining moment in your work as a scientist and/or industry professional.

A turning point in my career is when I realized the link between the basic research we do and its application. That then led me to understand how to utilize the acquired knowledge to provide a meaningful and positive impact. With the work we are doing, we aim to facilitate economic gain to the industry, address the consumer desire for nutritious and healthy food, have a positive impact on the environment by seeking and utilizing sustainable crops, provide additional protein sources for the growing population, and provide revenue to farmers and the industry.

What excites you about your work?

The discoveries and developments I encounter along the way really drive me in my work. There is never a dull moment while conducting research.

What are potential future directions for the work you are discussing at the Plant Protein Science and Technology Forum?

The directions are infinite. The discoveries can be applied to new protein sources. The information my work provides can lead to innovative technologies and applications.

What do you like to do when you are not in the lab or presenting at meetings?

I love to spend time with my daughter, visit parks across the nation and play tennis!