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New professor will delve into the food chemistry of grains

September 22, 2020 — 

Maneka Malalgoda joined the Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences as Assistant Professor in Grain Chemistry and Processing Quality on September 1.  She completed her graduate studies at North Dakota State University, and then went on to do her postdoctoral training at the University of Minnesota. Maneka described her teaching and research areas, and told us about how she followed her curiosity into the field of food chemistry.

Tell us about yourself

I did my undergraduate degree in Medical & Pharmaceutical Biotechnology in Austria, then moved back to Sri Lanka, where I am originally from. After doing an internship in the area of food and agriculture, I decided to pursue food science for my graduate education. I did my MSc and PhD in Cereal Science at the North Dakota State University, then moved to the University of Minnesota for a postdoctoral position. My work thus far has focused on grains and pulses, and I have conducted research in the areas of protein and starch chemistry, functionality of proteins in food systems and celiac epitopes in wheat.

Why did you get into this area of study?

An internship that I did as an undergraduate student in the area of food science is what sparked my curiosity and interest in the field. I was interested in studying the chemistry of different food groups, as well as factors that influence chemical properties.

What are you seeking to explore with your research?

As a food scientist, my goal is to make healthy nutritious food. In my research program, I will explore different areas of food science and study factors affecting grain starch and protein chemistry, how end-use quality is affected by different factors (growing environment, genotype and external factors like biotic and abiotic stresses) as well as the biological activity of grain components.

What are you teaching?

I will be teaching courses related to grain chemistry and processing. I like interacting with students and teaching gives a good platform to do so.

And in your spare time?

In my spare time I like to travel and explore new places. I also like cooking and baking different types of food.


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