An Interview with Drs. Swati Kalgaonkar and Juliana Maria Leite Nobrega De Moura Bell

Drs. Swati Kalgaonkar and Juliana Maria Leite Nobrega De Moura Bell presented on processing and utilization of almond proteins.

Dr. Swati Kalgaonkar

Associate Director, Nutrition Research, Almond Board of California, USA

Swati Kalgaonkar

Dr. Kalgaonkar presented "Almonds in the World of Plant Based Proteins" during the Processing and Utilization session. A recording of the presentation is available to registrants for 30 days after the meeting.

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Dr. Juliana Maria Leite Nobrega De Moura Bell

Assistant Professor, Food Science and Technology, University of California Davis, USA

Juliana Maria Leite Nobrega De Moura Bell

Drs. Juliana Maria Leite Nobrega De Moura Bell presented "Challenges and Perspectives on the Development of Bioguided Extraction of Almond Proteins"
during the Processing and Utilization session. A recording of the presentation is available to registrants for 30 days after the meeting.

View presentation

Note: Dr. Juliana Maria Leite Nobrega De Moura Bell and Dr. Swati Kalgaonkar presented together in the forum and decided to combine their interview.

About Dr. Juliana Maria Leite Nobrega De Moura Bell and Dr. Swati Kalgaonkar

Dr. Swati Kalgaonkar is the Associate Director of Nutrition Research Program at the Almond Board of California. She has extensive nutrition clinical research experience and her primary focus at ABC is oversight of ABC contracted nutrition research along with public policy analysis and synthesis. She is also responsible for information dissemination in support of the almond industry’s global strategies.

Dr. Juliana Maria Leite Nobrega De Moura Bell’s research includes the development and application of environmentally friendly technologies to replace the incumbent technology for extracting and fractionating of major food components such as oil, protein and carbohydrates. Her goal is to develop structure/function-based processes to produce foods that will improve human health, with the translation of these processes into the industrial realm being her work’s ultimate goal. Specifically, she is interested in bio-processing techniques such as enzyme-assisted aqueous extraction, fermentation and less harsh techniques like supercritical and subcritical extractions. Her laboratory research interests include: 1) Scaling-up extraction and downstream recovery processes from laboratory to pilot-scale; 2) Determining the effects of processing conditions (extraction, heat treatment, enzymatic modifications and recovery strategies) on the functionality and biological activities of food components and 3) The conversion of agricultural waste streams/food processing by-products into high added-value compounds.

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

Almonds are one of the tree nuts with the highest protein content. Their protein quality has also been ascertained and published (House et al 2019). Their taste and variety of forms lend them a great advantage in the plant-protein world.

Any food that serves as a source of protein has the potential to cause food allergies. I plan to elucidate the role of key extraction parameters on the physicochemical properties of extracted compounds and how these modifications alter critical aspects related to extraction efficiency and their functional (solubility, emulsification and foaming properties) and biological properties (digestibility, allergenicity).

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?

The significance of the research that I plan to discuss at the forum relies on the need and importance of the development of structure-function based methods that can be used to solve sustainable issues the food industry faces. The integration of processing efficiency and sustainability with the technological and biological aspects is key to developing a pathway leading to the production of more nutritional and healthier foods.

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

I work on multidisciplinary projects that seek to address complex issues. Achieving this goal requires partnerships with experts from different research areas. Recently, I identified the need to better elucidate the effects of some processing strategies developed in my lab to reduce almond protein allergenicity. Based on commercial ELISA tests available, I had some indication of a potential reduction of allergenicity for some processing strategies used. However, I did not have the tools needed to demonstrate the potential reactivity of the new hydrolysates produced.

After a significant search, I was able to identify allergy experts that had the knowledge and the required tools to accurately demonstrate the potential loss of allergenicity of my samples. A simple example of networking and perseverance that is helping me identify the best processing strategies to reduce almond protein allergenicity.

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

The defining moment in my life, that would help carve my scientific path, came with my first encounter with research as an undergraduate student. I was mentored by a great scientist on two projects (each one year in length). Writing my own research project, applying for an annual fellowship, and generating quarterly reports and a final presentation allowed me to put the theoretical information into perspective and practice. It gave me the opportunity of learning about the real-world research needs and to be fully immersed with graduate students in the lab. From that point forward, I had no doubt about wanting to be a researcher and a teacher!

What excites you about your work?

I am excited by the possibility of doing good for humans and nature, the challenging and dynamic aspect of academy/research and the mentoring aspect, and the ability to help young scientists throughout the career path.

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

My team is leveraging their current findings to expand their research to other food matrices and plant-based beverages.

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

Enjoying the company of family members and friends and doing outdoor activities (windsurfing, skiing, hiking, running).