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Online presentations to focus on GMOs

Those interested in learning more about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are encouraged to register for the upcoming Current Issues in Nutrition online presentation.

Iowa State University improves algae technology to treat wastewater for communities and businesses

Martin Gross, left, and Zhiyou Wen developed this algae reactor at the BioCentury Research Farm.

AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University technology that improves the efficiency of wastewater reclamation using algae has gotten the attention of small Iowa communities and the largest wastewater treatment system in the world.

“This reactor greatly improves the efficiency of carbon dioxide and sunlight absorption. We found that the biomass productivity is about 10 times higher than a conventional system,” said Zhiyou Wen, professor of food science and human nutrition, who developed the system with Martin Gross, a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Crops Utilization Research.

The system uses vertical conveyor belts, about six feet tall and three feet wide, which revolve in a continual loop, cycling through the wastewater and air as multiple layers of algae grow on them.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago has tested the Revolving Algal Biofilm treatment system. It has finished a yearlong study treating waste streams from one of its water reclamation plants and extended the research project another year because of promising results.

Algae absorbs phosphorus and nitrogen from the wastewater along with carbon dioxide from the air. Wastewater is typically treated with a bacterial process, which produces sludge that creates odor and disposal issues.

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Martin Gross, left, and Zhiyou Wen take a sample of algae in the portable algae water-treatment unit.

The algae produced from this new process can be harvested, pelletized and used as a sustainable fertilizer. Wen and Gross have started a company, called Gross-Wen Technologies, which obtained a USDA Small Business Innovation Research grant to develop the algae-based fertilizer. Gross serves as CEO of the company.

Wen and Gross also produced a mobile version of the system that can travel to communities and businesses around the state.

“Instead of inviting a local community’s water treatment personnel to come to our ISU facility to perform water treatment tests, we built this trailer to take to the community to treat wastewater on site,” Wen said.

The trailer was recently taken to Dallas Center for a project at its water treatment facility.

Wen said more restrictive regulations for the removal of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater, are coming for communities in the state, likely requiring costly treatment facility upgrades that could be avoided with implementation of the algae system. There are about 500 small communities in Iowa that could be impacted by the new regulations.

He said these communities are looking at upgrades to their existing treatment systems costing up to $5 million, which is a huge burden on these small towns.

“So that’s the niche for us. We have this algae cultivation system that can help these communities meet their new nutrient limits at a fraction of the cost of other systems,” Wen said.

The trailer also was recently used to test the system at CJ Bio America, a feed supplement company in Fort Dodge. It generated data to determine the cost of implementing the algae system at the plant.

Contacts: 

Zhiyou Wen, Food Science and Human Nutrition, 515-294-0426, wenz@iastate.edu
Martin Gross, Center for Crops Utilization Research, 515-294-0160, magross@iastate.edu
Ed Adcock, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service, (515) 294-2314, edadcock@iastate.edu

Nominations being sought for 2017 FSHN Alumni Impact Award

From left, Mary Wagner, Andrew McPherson and Linda Snetselaar were the recipients of the 2016 FSHN Alumni Impact Awards. Up to three FSHN alumni are chosen to receive the award each year, based on the impacts they have made in their profession and/or community.

The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN) is accepting nominations for the seventh annual FSHN Alumni Impact Award.

“Each year we recognize FSHN alums who are making a difference,” said Ruth MacDonald, professor and chair.

Students call work with Dance Marathon ‘life-changing’

Madie Conley and Haley Morris, both seniors in elementary education, are directors of recruitment and dancer relations for this year’s Iowa State Dance Marathon. Contributed photo.

College of Human Sciences students are taking their passion for helping people to make a difference in the lives of children with life-threatening illnesses.

Houses in new residence hall named after FSHN representatives

Roderuck House, located on the third floor on the west side of Geoffroy Hall, is named for Charlotte Roderuck. She was a faculty member at Iowa State for nearly 40 years. Photo by Whitney Sager

In keeping with the tradition of naming residence hall houses after individuals who have made an impact on Iowa State University (ISU), two of the 14 houses in the new Geoffroy residence hall have been named for women with ties to food science and human nutrition.

One of the houses, Day House, located on the east side of the building on the fifth floor, is named after Mildred “Millie” Day. Known as the creator of Rice Krispie Treats, Day is a 1928 graduate of ISU with a degree in home economics.

Before Day graduated from college, she already had a job lined up with Kellogg’s. She was in charge of testing recipes and later was tasked with leading cooking schools in approximately 38 states for Kellogg’s customers, according to information on the ISU Department of Residence website.day-geoffrey-hall_8284-small

Several sources claim it was in 1939 that the Rice Krispies Treat was created by Day and co-worker Malitta Jensen. Initially, the treats were called “marshmallow squares” and were first introduced to the public six months later by Camp Fire girls in the Kansas City area who sold the treats for a fundraiser.

During the 2001 Veishea celebration, Day’s memory was honored by an effort to make the world’s largest Rice Krispies Treat. Though the oversized treat fell short of the world record, its final weight came in at 2,480 pounds and was made with 818 pounds of Rice Krispies, 1,466 pounds of marshmallows and 217 pounds of butter, according to the ISU Department of Residence website.

The other house in Geoffroy Hall is named for Charlotte Roderuck and is located on the third floor on the building’s west side. Roderuck served as an ISU employee for nearly 40 years, starting out as a Food and Nutrition faculty member in 1948. During her time at ISU, she went on to hold a number of positions, including assistant dean of the graduate college, assistant director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station and associate dean of home economic administration.

In 1977, she was named the Director of the World Food Institute at ISU. She held this position until Oct. 31, 1988, when she retired. A highlight of Roderuck’s time as the World Food Institute director was when the organization played host to the 1976 World Food Conference, according to the ISU Department of Residence website.

An endowed position within the FSHN Department is named after Roderuck – the Charlotte E. Roderuck Faculty Fellowship. The position was made possible thanks to a donation Roderuck made to the university after she retired.

“It is a great honor for the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department to have one of the houses in Geoffroy Hall named after Roderuck,” said Ruth MacDonald, professor and chair of the FSHN Department. “It’s also nice to have Day recognized as an individual who impacted the food sciences industry.”

Lisa Ludovico, assistant director of the Residence Halls Department, said any time a new residence hall is constructed, the houses within that facility are named after individuals who have made an impact on the ISU community. The University Archives, as well as other sources, are used to come up with a list of names. The 14 individuals for which the Geoffroy Hall houses are named were narrowed down from a sizable list of candidates.

“We came up with a list of about 50 names that didn’t already have something named after them,” Ludovico said.

From there, a group of student leaders and Department of Residence staff members narrowed down the list to the 14 that were chosen. Ludovico said they tried to choose a combination of males and females, as well as people who represented various backgrounds, time periods and colleges within ISU.

“Attention was paid to diversity this time around,” Ludovico said.

The other individuals for which the houses are named are:

  • Dorothy Bean
  • Clifford Berry
  • Lauro Cavazos
  • Vine Deloria Jr.
  • Larry Ebberts
  • James Geddes
  • Elizabeth Hoyt
  • Ted Kooser
  • Barbara Mack
  • Samuel Massie
  • Dan Robinson
  • Lois Tiffany

Students have already begun moving into the new residence hall, which is located on the south side of Lincoln Way next to Buchanan Hall. It will officially open during the spring 2017 semester.

 

KEY CONTACTS:

Lisa Ludovico, assistant director, Department of Residence Halls, Iowa State University, 515-294-2900, ludovico@iastate.edu

Whitney Sager, communications coordinator, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University, 515-294-9166, wjsager@iastate.edu

New biomarker predicts Alzheimer’s Disease and link to diabetes

Iowa State University researchers say higher levels of the enzyme, autotaxin, significantly predict memory impairment and Type 2 diabetes. Just a one-point difference in autotaxin levels – for example, going from a level of two to a three – is equal to a 3.5 to 5 times increase in the odds of being diagnosed with some form of memory loss, said Auriel Willette, an assistant professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

An enzyme found in the fluid around the brain and spine is giving researchers a snapshot of what happens inside the minds of Alzheimer’s patients and how that relates to cognitive decline.

Iowa State University researchers say higher levels of the enzyme, autotaxin, significantly predict memory impairment and Type 2 diabetes. Just a one-point difference in autotaxin levels – for example, going from a level of two to a three – is equal to a 3.5 to 5 times increase in the odds of being diagnosed with some form of memory loss, said Auriel Willette, an assistant professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State.

Autotaxin, often studied in cancer research, is an even stronger indicator of Type 2 diabetes. A single point increase reflects a 300 percent greater likelihood of having the disease or pre-diabetes. The results are published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Willette and Kelsey McLimans, a graduate research assistant, say the discovery is important because of autotaxin’s proximity to the brain.

“We’ve been looking for metabolic biomarkers which are closer to the brain. We’re also looking for markers that reliably scale up with the disease and have consistently higher levels across the Alzheimer’s spectrum,” Willette said. “This is as directly inside of the brain as we can get without taking a tissue biopsy.”

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Kelsey McLimans

Willette’s previous research found a strong association between insulin resistance and memory decline and detrimental brain outcomes, increasing the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Insulin resistance is a good indicator, but Willette says it has limitations because what happens in the body does not consistently translate to what happens in the brain. That is why the correlation with this new enzyme found in the cerebrospinal fluid is so important.

“It has a higher predictive rate for having Alzheimer’s disease,” McLimans said. “We also found correlations with worse memory function, brain volume loss and the brain using less blood sugar, which have also been shown with insulin resistance, but autotaxin has a higher predictive value.”

Physical health linked to memory

The fact that autotaxin is a strong predictor of Type 2 diabetes and memory decline emphasizes the importance of good physical health. Researchers say people with higher levels of autotaxin are more likely to be obese, which often causes an increase in insulin resistance.

Willette says autotaxin levels can determine the amount of energy the brain is using in areas affected by Alzheimer’s disease. People with higher autotaxin levels had fewer and smaller brain cells in the frontal and temporal lobes, areas of the brain associated with memory and executive function. As a result, they had lower scores for memory and tests related to reasoning and multitasking.

“Autotaxin is related to less real estate in the brain, and smaller brain regions in Alzheimer’s disease mean they are less able to carry out their functions,” Willette said. “It’s the same thing with blood sugar. If the brain is using less blood sugar, neurons have less fuel and start making mistakes and in general do not process information as quickly.”

Researchers analyzed data from 287 adults collected through the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, a public-private partnership working to determine whether MRI and PET scans as well as biological markers can measure the progression of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. The data came from adults ranging in age from 56 to 89 years old. Study participants completed various tests to measure cognitive function. This included repeating a list of words over various time increments.

The research was supported by an Iowa State Presidential Initiative for Interdisciplinary Research grant and a National Institutes of Health grant.

KEY CONTACTS:

Auriel Willette, assistant professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, Iowa State University, 515-294-3110, awillett@iastate.edu

Kelsey McLimans, graduate research assistant, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, Iowa State University, mclimans@iastate.edu

Angie Hunt, News Service, 515-294-8986, amhunt@iastate.edu

Gross-Wen Technologies receives $225,000 angel investment

Dr. Zhiyou Wen and Dr. Martin Gross stand in front of their mobile Algal Wastewater Treatment Lab.

The Iowa State University StartUp Factory recently announced Gross-Wen Technologies Inc. (GWT) has secured $225,000 in additional financing from strategic angel investor Dave Furbush, founder and vice president of Midwest Project Partners, Inc., an Aureon Company.

Wine industry leader to retire from Iowa State

Dr. Murlidhar “Murli” Dharmadhikari, second from left, adjunct assistant professor and director of the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute, will retire from Iowa State University in January 2017. Photo by Whitney Sager

As the fall 2016 semester comes to a close, one food science and human nutrition professor is preparing for the next chapter in his life.

Dr. Murlidhar “Murli” Dharmadhikari, adjunct assistant professor and director of the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute, will retire in January 2017.

ISU Produce Food Safety Team Partners with Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship

AMES, Iowa – Iowa State University Produce Food Safety Team will partner with Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) in an effort to help fruit and vegetable growers and processors comply with new federal regulations. On Friday, September 9th, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the awarding of a total of $21.8 million to support 42 states in the implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) produce safety rule. 

As part of this grant Iowa State University partnered with IDALS to lead the state of Iowa efforts. Specifically, Iowa State University was awarded a five-year, $1,118,900 subcontract grant to assist with assessment of the needs of produce growers directly affected by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Rule and to provide education and technical assistance to those affected by the rule. With the additional funds, the ISU Produce Safety team will be able conduct on-farm food safety assessments, food safety trainings and follow ups. The Iowa State University Produce Food Safety Team has a long history of working with state government compliance bodies (IDALS and Department of Inspection and Appeals), therefore this effort will be an expansion of current relationships.

Angela Shaw, assistant professor in food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University, will lead the team.

“Our team is excited to work closely with Iowa based fruit and vegetable growers and processors to ensure they are in compliance with the new FSMA Produce Rule,” said Shaw.

The Iowa State University Produce Food Safety Team is a multidiscipline group that includes campus and county based members within Iowa State University. Grant members include Joseph Hannan, extension horticulture specialist, Teresa Wiemerslage, extension specialist with Allamakee County, Linda Naeve, value added agriculture extension specialist, Lakshman Rajagopal, associate professor in hospitality management, and Shannon Coleman, assistant professor in food science and human nutrition.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law in 2011, aims to strengthen the U.S. food safety system by preventing foodborne outbreaks before they occur. The produce safety rule, one of seven major rules under FSMA, requires fruit and vegetable growers to meet science-based minimum standards for safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.

The FDA has recently established a national center and four regional centers along with two additional specialty centers – which includes the new center at Iowa State University – to provide guidance to companies that will have to comply with the law within the north central region. Dr. Shaw currently leads the new North Central Regional Center along with Dr. Catherine Strohbehn, professor and nutrition extension state specialist, Linda Naeve, Joe Hannan, and Arlene Enderton, program coordinator with ISU Extension and Outreach.

Key Contacts:
Angela Shaw, assistant professor in food science and human nutrition, angelaml@iastate.edu
Megan Pulse, marketing and communications in food science and human nutrition, mjpulse@iastate.edu

Calling 2016 FSHN Summer Interns!

The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition is hosting their first event to recognize the work our students are doing outside of the classroom by hosting an internship reception.  The purpose is to let students who have had internships or work experiences share what they have learned with other interested students. 

This will be a perfect time to learn from your peers about their internships (whether you are looking for your first or next internship)!

If you have had an internship or other work experience in the last year and would like to share, please fill out the FSHN Internship Reception form.
Students must also fill out the informational PowerPoint slide and email it to Kate Gilbert by 11: 59 pm, Monday, September 19th.  Plan to attend the internship reception and share your experience with your fellow students!

What counts as an internship or work experience? Generally, it is defined as a work experience that will help you in your future career and is at least 200 hours in length (40 hours/week x 5 weeks). 

Event Details

What: Internship Reception - The FSHN Department would like to recognize the work our students are doing outside of the classroom by hosting an internship reception.  The purpose is to let students who have had internships or work experiences share what they have learned with other interested students.
When: September 22nd
Time: 5:00-6:30 pm starting with a networking hour (with appetizers served) and a short program at 6:00 pm
Where: Harl Commons, Curtiss Hall
Who Should Attend: Everyone - undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff are invited!

If you would like to attend - whether you have had an internship or not - please take a moment and fill out the form below.  Since this is a new event, RSVP’ing will help us with our planning. We look forward to hearing from you!

FSHN Internship Reception Form

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