Name: Alexandra Kuechel
Hometown: Morton Grove, Ill.
Degree Pursuing: M.S. Food Science
Adviser: Dr. Tonya Schoenfuss
Research Title: Lactose Polymerization to Polylactose: Furthering Our Understanding for Commercialization
Polylactose is an oligosaccharide made from lactose, glucose and citric acid that was developed in the Schoenfuss lab. The focus of my research was to develop a benchtop method for lactose polymerization so that we could conduct pre-extrusion trials to understand the impact of formulation on polymerization. Additionally, I developed a carbon filtration method for purifying polylactose; an important process that is necessary before commercialization can begin.
How did you become interested in food science?
My interest in food science began in high school while researching college majors. I have always loved cooking and baking, but I did not want to pursue a career as a chef. My interest in science developed in junior high and high school, and I realized that I wanted to pursue a degree in the sciences in college. Food science was a natural fit since it’s the perfect combination of the creativity of the culinary arts and the technical aspect of the sciences.
Why did you choose the University of Minnesota?
I chose the University of Minnesota for the strength of its Food Science program and the diversity of classes offered for graduate students. During my time as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, I became interested in dairy products. I was eager to research under the direction of Dr Schoenfuss and further my education in such a highly respected dairy products lab.
How does your research tie in to the research being done in your adviser's lab?
The focus of the Schoenfuss lab is dairy products and a number of our recent projects have specifically looked at utilizing dairy waste-streams to create novel ingredients. My project utilizes lactose, which can be harvested from dairy waste streams. I have also investigated the feasibility of polymerizing the lactose in dairy co-products, such as permeate, to provide the dairy industry with an alternative use for a current waste stream.
My immediate post-graduation plan is to participate in the Taste of Germany and Switzerland study abroad program. Following that trip, I am planning on working in research and development within the food industry.