The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Faculty Bios and Potential UMass FUEL Scholar Research Projects

Eric Decker is a Professor who works with student researchers and industrial scientists to help them better understand the chemistry of foods to improve food quality, safety, and nutrition. Eric believes that by understanding the fundamentals of food science, one can develop practical and innovative solutions to improve foods.  Eric has received numerous scientific awards (e.g., Clarivate’s Most Highly Cited Researchers, IFT Research and Development Award, American Oil Chemists Society’s Chang Award for Lipid Research and the America Chemical Societies’ Application of Agricultural and Food Chemistry Award) and has served on committees for the National Academy of Science, USDA and FDA.  He is the past President of AOCS.  Eric holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in Food Science and Nutrition from Washington State University and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, respectively.

Undergraduates working in Eric’s lab will conduct research on developing novel antioxidant systems and understanding oxidation mechanisms in different foods.


Lili He is an Associate Professor who works with innovative analytical techniques to study food and their contaminants to improve food safety and quality. Lili believes an effective analytical technology is a key to analyze food and their contaminants and understand their physiochemical properties. Lili has secured major grants from the USDA and food industry to develop and apply the novel technology (i.e., surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy) in food safety and chemistry areas. Lili received young scientist awards from the International Union of Food Science and Technology, the American Chemical Society-Agricultural and Food Chemistry Division, the Eastern Analytical Symposium, the Institute of Food Technologists, and was honored as one of the Talented 12 in the 2016 American Chemical Society’s magazine. Lili holds a Ph.D. degree in Food Science from University of Missouri-Columbia.

Undergraduates working in Lilli’s lab will get hands-on experiences with the detection of microplastics in water and food products using Raman microscopy or detection of titanium dioxide in food products using a combination of Raman spectroscopy and X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy.


John Gibbons is an Assistant Professor who works with beneficial food microbes and agricultural fungal pathogens to understand how these organisms have adapted to their respective environments. John believes that combining genomics, chemical, molecular and experimental work is key to understanding microbial diversity. John has secured funds from the NIH to identify genes and genetic variants involved in Aspergillus fumigatus pathogenicity (human and livestock pathogen), and support from the Joint Genomes Institute to study the history of Shiitake domestication. John’s work on fungal domestication has been highlighted in The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, and Scientific American. John holds a PhD in Biological Science from Vanderbilt University.

Undergraduates working in John’s lab will collect phenotypic data from beneficial and detrimental food microbes to determine the genetic basis of particular traits, and will isolate microbes from fermented foods in order to better understand microbial diversity and function.


Amanda J. Kinchla is an Associate Extension Professor who supports the food industry by identifying, developing and providing extension-based learning through outreach activities. Amanda believes that food safety should be addressed during all stages of the food product development cycle. Amanda has collaborated with several food-processing partners (MA Department of Agriculture, Cape Cod Extension, Commonwealth Kitchen and the Greenfield Food Processing Center)  and is has served as a Co-PI (Leadership Team) to the FDA supported Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety to provide technical support and educational resources throughout the 13 state region.  Amanda has a MS degree from Rutgers University and 15 years of experience in industrial food safety and research and development from concept to commercialization.

Undergraduates working in Amanda’s lab will be involved in integrated research-extension projects. Research projects may include optimizing the process conditions to process frozen produce at a regional food processing facility, establishing validated product formulations in compliance with acidified canning regulations (21CFR114), or investigating scale appropriate post-harvest produce washing conditions to improve food safety practices.


Jiakai Lu is an Assistant Professor who uses advanced mathematical modeling and innovative numerical techniques to study transport phenomena (e.g. mass, fluid flow and energy) in food process and biological process. Jiakai believes advanced predictive computational tools are keys to understand the mechanisms of the complex change of the physiochemical properties of food during the process, which will subsequently help optimizing process sustainability and improving food quality and safety. Jiakai’s research has been supported by major grants from USDA and food industry to develop and apply mathematical tools for novel food process technology (e.g. micro-bubble based CIP process) and received support from DOD to advance the development of the gelled hypergolic propellant for rocket engines. Jiakai holds a PhD degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University West Lafayette.

Undergraduates working in Jiakai’s lab will be involved in a program of research and training on high-performance computing modeling and simulation of fundamental transport phenomena closely related to food processing. Projects will focus on understanding the interfacial dynamics of a food dispersion system, such as gels, foams, and emulsions, or the fouling layer formed on the heat exchanger surface and its growth during the thermal process of dairy products.


Matthew D. Moore is an Assistant Professor who studies microbial food safety with a focus on enteric viruses with a long term research goal to better understand, detect, and control these viruses and save lives. Because enteric viruses are the leading cause of foodborne illness globally and exact a considerable public health and economic burden, Matt believes his research can improve the human condition. Matt has secured two competitive federal grants as lead PI, and has received 25 academic and scientific awards—including being recognized as one of six young food scientists (PhDs under 35 years old) in a field of global applicants for the International Union of Food Science and Technology Young Scientist Award (2018). Additionally, Matt is currently the Young Ambassador representing Massachusetts for the American Society of Microbiology, an Editorial Board member for the Journal of Food Protection and Food Science and Technology Abstracts, and committed to serving as co-Editor for a foodborne virus textbook for the Royal Society of Chemistry. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Food Science from North Carolina State University.

Undergraduates working in Matt’s lab will be involved in a number of specific projects, which can be (and are not limited to): (i) developing and evaluating methods for better eluting and detecting foodborne viruses from foods; (ii) Developing and evaluating methods for better eluting and detecting foodborne viruses from foods; (iii) Evaluating the ability of different bacterial proteins to bind human norovirus; (iv) identification of novel phage surrogates for human norovirus.


David Julian McClements is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Massachusetts and a visiting scientist at Harvard School of Public Health.  He specializes in applying the fundamental principles of physical chemistry and nanotechnology to improve the healthiness, safety, quality, affordability, and sustainability of foods.  Julian believes that by applying modern science and technology to foods we can create a food supply that will be able to feed the growing global population with high quality and healthy foods.  Julian has secured funding for over 20 research projects from a variety of government and industry sources where he has been able to carry out cutting-edge research that has advanced the field of food science, as well as see it applied by industry to create new products or improve existing ones. Julian has written over 10 books and published over 1000 articles in scientific journals, as well as being an invited speaker at numerous scientific conferences around the world.  He is currently one of the highest cited scientists in the food and agricultural field. Julian got his Ph.D. in Food Science from the University of Leeds in the UK.

Undergraduates working in Julian’s lab will carry out experiments in improving human health and the sustainability of the global food supply.  Examples of projects include: (i) formulation of plant-based milks with desirable sensory attributes, good physicochemical stability, and fortified with nutrients lacking in vegan or vegetarian diets; (ii) creation of emulsion based delivery systems for improving the bioavailability of nutraceuticals; (iii) creation of starchy foods with reduced glycemic index using structural design approaches.


Lynne McLandsborough is a Professor in the area of Food Microbiology who is an expert on the survival of foodborne organisms on surfaces. Lynne believes that cleaning and sanitation are critical for the prevention of foodborne illness. As the past Director of the Undergraduate Food Science Program and the current Department Head, Lynne has won awards in teaching and advising. In addition to scientific publications, she has contributed as a scientific expert to Food Safety Magazine, Men’s Journal, Scientific American, and NBC Nightly News. Lynne holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in Food Science from the University of Minnesota.

Undergraduates working in Lynne’s lab will work on one of two projects: (1) the development and testing of novel cleaning and sanitizing agents for the food-processing environment or (2) utilization of “click-chemistry” to identify proteins expressed during bacterial transition from desiccation survival to hydrated growth.


Alissa Nolden is an Assistant Professor at The University of Massachusetts, Amherst in the Food Science Department who works with her colleagues and students to enhance the field of food science and human health. As an expert in sensory science, Alissa believes understanding factors influencing sensory perception and taste preferences are important in increasing consumption and creation of delicious, healthful, and sustainable foods. Alissa has worked with world-renowned experts of the chemical senses at The Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. During her graduate and post-graduate work, Alissa has received training fellowships from the Clinical Translational Science Institute from Penn State and the National Institutes of Health. Alissa holds MS in Food Science from Penn State, with a dual-title PhD in Food Science and Clinical Translational Science from Penn State.

Undergraduates working in Alissa’s lab will work with food and beverage products traditionally developed for individuals with swallowing disorders. This might include examining commercially available pre-thickened beverages with healthy consumers to quantify sensory attributes that do not meet expectations of the non-thickened versions. For example, pre-thickened coffee or ginger ale versus commercially thickened versions produced by ThickIt. While the primary focus will be on learning sensory evaluation techniques, working with human subjects, and organizing a research experiment, undergraduates will learn about food chemistry including viscosity and thickening agents. This could also include sensory attributes and acceptance of packaged thickening agents for home use, and other oral nutritional supplements. Overall these research projects will help to identify opportunities to improve acceptance and compliance of these foods and beverages, and also establish scientific knowledge around viscosity and thickening agents on sensory attributes.


Yeonhwa Park is a Professor who works to improve human health with the food supply. As a toxicologist, Yeonhwa studies food bioactives and environmental contaminants to understand their contribution to human obesity. Yeonhwa’s work on conjugated linoleic acid was recognized with the ILSI 2007 Future Leader Award and she was named to the list of Highly Cited Researchers in Agriculture in 2014, 2017 & 2018. Yeonhwa Park holds a PhD in Food Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Undergraduates working in Yeonhwa’s lab will use the Caenorhabditis elegans model to determine biochemical mechanisms of food bioactives on prevention of obesity and aging.


David Sela is an Associate Professor who studies nutrition through dietary influences on the human gut microbiome. David believes that his group's fundamental and translational research will increase human performance through optimizing nutrition. David is a leader in pediatric nutrition, in particular researching human milk and its impacts to the infant gut microbiome. David holds leadership positions in several professional societies that advance nutrition research. David earned a PhD in Microbiology from University of California Davis.

Undergraduates working in David’s lab will perform research on one of two primary projects. The first will be to isolate and characterize human gut microbes that utilize plant-based dietary components. Another project will be to study the interactions of various starter cultures on naturally occurring microbes in vegetable fermentations with impacts to product characteristics.


Hang Xiao is a Professor who works with cutting-edge interdisciplinary research platforms to study how food components interact with the human body to have a positive or negative impact on human health, such as decreasing or increasing the risk of chronic diseases. Hang believes what happens to the food components in the gastrointestinal tract plays a critical role in human health. Hang has secured major grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and NASA to help produce healthier foods and food-based approaches to improve human health. Hang received multiple research awards such as Fellow of Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), Babcock-Hart Research Award from IFT, Fellow of Agricultural and Food Chemistry Division of American Chemical Society (ACS), Mary Swartz Rose Young Investigator Award from American Society for Nutrition (ASN), Samuel Cate Prescott Research Award from IFT, and International Life Science Institute (ILSI) North America Future Leader Award. Hang holds a Ph.D. degree in Food Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Undergraduates working in Hang’s lab will study the metabolic fate and biological functions of functional food components and food additives.