UMass Amherst Food Scientist Wins National Award, Fellowships

Julian McClements

AMHERST, Mass. – David Julian McClements, professor of food science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an internationally recognized expert in the encapsulation and delivery of bioactive components, recently was honored with the Institute of Food Technologies (IFT) Babcock-Hart Award for contributions to food technology that result in improved public health through nutrition.

He will receive a $3,000 honorarium from the IFT’s Life Sciences Institute North America and a plaque at its July meeting in Chicago. He also was elected a fellow of IFT, the U.K.’s Royal Society of Chemistry and the American Chemical Society. 

McClements says, “It’s really nice to be recognized by your colleagues for the work that you do. I love the research. I look forward to coming in every day. We have some fantastic new professors so I am learning something new all the time. My father was a truck driver and didn’t like going to work, so I know I am very lucky to enjoy this so much.”

The UMass Amherst food scientist has established an internationally recognized research program in food biopolymers, colloids, nanotechnology and functional foods and has made “major contributions to food science throughout his career,” says Eric Decker, head of the food science department at UMass Amherst. Food encapsulation for nutraceuticals boosts nutrition by adding compounds with health benefits to food, such as carotenoids, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, D and E.

Using new structural design approaches, McClements recently developed practical new strategies to create reduced-calorie foods that taste and feel in the mouth like higher-fat foods, Decker explains. In particular, his research group has focused on understanding the impact of food composition and structural organization on the appearance, texture, shelf life and sensory attributes of food products.

He has worked closely with food scientists in industry to develop strategies that are both effective and commercially viable, and a number of his approaches have been adopted in commercial food products, Decker adds.

“The increased availability of high quality, reduced calorie foods is an important component in society’s quest to tackle increasing incidences of overweight, obesity and related chronic diseases,” Decker notes. McClements is also a pioneer in applying physical chemistry principles to understand physicochemical and physiological processes in the gastrointestinal tract during digestion and absorption and has used this knowledge to increase nutrient bioavailability, induce satiety or control delivery.

Nano emulsions, solid lipid nanoparticles, protein nanoparticles, multilayer emulsions and microgels designed by McClements can be made entirely from food-grade ingredients using simple processing operations, making them suitable for commercial applications. This work is particularly important, Decker says, because many beneficial food ingredients recently shown to have high bioactivity are difficult to incorporate into food, but McClements’ research accomplishments overcome several problems.

McClements, who came to UMass Amherst in 1994, received a B.Sc. with honors and a Ph.D. from the University of Leeds. He was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Leeds, University of California, and University College Cork (Ireland). He has won numerous national and international awards and recognition, including the Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Research and Creative Activity in 2008 from UMass Amherst and a research award from the College of Natural Sciences in 2010.

McClements has mentored more than 30 graduate students, 16 postdoctoral researchers, 18 exchange students and many undergraduates. He has written four books and edited six more, published more than 600 refereed manuscripts in scientific journals, more than 45 book chapters and more than 150 abstracts in conference proceedings. He currently is one of the most cited authors in the agricultural sciences, with an H-index of 70.