Nicki Jene Engeseth

Dr. Nicki J. Engeseth

Dr. Engeseth’s research focus is on the study of chemical and biochemical reactions in food products with the eventual goal of manipulation of these pathways for enhancement of food quality. Highlights include the impact of growing conditions, processing and storage on quality and nutritional value of fruits and vegetables. This includes the study of oxidative reactions and antioxidant action with the eventual goal of manipulating such reactions for enhanced food stability and nutritional quality. Also being studied are the physical properties of food lipids, such as cocoa butter and the impact of changes through storage and processing on consumer perception of product quality.

Oilseed lipid/fatty acid biosynthesis pathways; manipulation of oilseeds to alter fatty acid composition and total oil content; chemistry and modes of action of natural antioxidants.Vegetable oils are one of the most valuable components of oilseeds and are an important constituent of both human and animal diets. Oil quality is dependent upon the fatty acid composition. Our laboratory studies the pathways for fatty acid biosynthesis in oilseeds, with particular emphasis on acyl carrier protein’s role in determination of plant fatty acid composition and oil content. We have developed a series of transgenic plants to investigate the impact of altered acyl carrier protein levels on oilseed quality. Some of this research also extends into the study of pathways for unusual fatty acid biosynthesis so that we may be able to produce unusual fatty acids desirable for nutritional applications in common oilseeds. Additionally, we study the impact of altered environmental atmospheric levels of CO2 and ozone on soybean quality through a multi-investigator project (SOYFACE), including major storage components of carbohydrate, lipid and protein and other key compounds with potential biological activity such as isoflavones, other phenolics and saponins. The impact of ozone on oxidative stress issues on soybeans will be addressed as will the impact of altered environmental atmospheres on gene regulation of key pathways influencing soybean quality.Other research in our laboratory has been focused on natural antioxidants, with a particular emphasis thus far on honey. Projects related to this include the study of honey as a protective agent against oxidative deterioration reactions in foods and the mechanisms by which honey imparts this protection, including detailed characterization of antioxidant components of honeys. Other projects include the investigation of honey and other food components as sources of dietary antioxidants and the ability of these natural sources to protect against oxidative stress in human/animal systems.


Professor of Food Chemistry; engeseth@illinois.edu; more detail here.