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Elaine Hsiao

Elaine Hsaio

Dr. Elaine Hsiao is an assistant professor at UCLA’s Department of Integrative Biology & Physiology and UCLA’s Department of Medicine, Digestive Diseases. In addition to her many distinctions, she was elected to the Forbes’ 2014 “30 Under 30 in Science & Health Care” and served on the White House Office of Science and Technology Microbiome Forum. Her research studies how changes to microbes inside our bodies impact our health and behavior and may influence various neurological disorders like autism, depression, and Parkinson’s disease.

See Dr. Elaine Hsiao speak on May 11 2016 at “Microbes: From Your Food to Your Brain”

Check out some of her previous talks and interviews

TEDXCaltech – “Mind-Altering Microbes: How the microbiome affects brain and behavior”

In her talk, Dr. Hsiao explains how the microbes in our gut can affect our brains by altering our production of neuroactive molecules and the potential applications of this research

Media Evolution – “Brain, Heart, gut – what drive us, really”

Here Dr. Hsiao shows how mouse models are used in her research. Specifically, she explains how she and her team experimentally determined gut microbes influence autistic-like behaviors in the mice.

Autism Speaks – “Investing in Talent: Predoctoral Fellow Elaine Hsaio”

In this interview, Dr. Hsiao talks about her previous work investigating how infections during pregnancy impact the risk of Autism.

For more information check out her Lab’s Website here

Fermentation Revival & Mind-Altering Microbes

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Sandor Katz and Dr. Elaine Hsiao will be joining us at our next 2016 public lecture, Microbes: From Your Food to Your Brain. Get to know them beforehand, as Sandor Katz talks about his book, The Art of Fermentation, on NPR: Fresh Air and Dr. Hsiao shares her fascination with the microbiome at a TedxCaltech talk.
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Kent Kirshenbaum

Dr. Kent Kirshenbaum received his PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at UCSF, is an NSF Career Award recipient, and is currently a professor of Chemistry at NYU. His research focuses on the creation of new peptide-based macromolecules that can be used as research tools or therapeutic strategies. In 2012, he filed a patent for a foaming agent which acts as a vegan substitute for egg whites, making vegan meringues a delicious possibility.

See Kent Kirshenbaum March 8, 2016 at “The Impact of What We Eat: From Science & Technology, To Eating Local”

Kent Kirshenbaum

What hooked you on cooking?
Spending time with my mom got me hooked on cooking. She exemplified the “slow food” concept, and she’d take days to make a pasta sauce. I grew up in a drafty house in San Francisco that was cold all year around, and being near her at the stove was the warmest place to be. Once my wife and I had kids, I realized how satisfying it was for me to provide my family with sustenance through cooking and culture through cuisine.
My dad got me hooked on science. He studied metallurgy and worked for a mining company. He would go on business trips and bring me back samples of different minerals to play with. It was kind of like the situation described in the book “Uncle Tungsten” by Oliver Sachs.
The coolest example of science in your food?
Mayonnaise. You take two immiscible liquids – oil and water, and find a way to get them to mix. How do they do that?? Add an emulsifier, provide some energy and voila! It’s just a shame the product itself is so repugnant.
The food you find most fascinating?
Fermented butters. Such as smen, the fermented butter of North Africa and “bog butter” from the British Isles.
What scientific concept–food related or otherwise–do you find most fascinating?
I’m fascinated by the relationship between the sequence, structure and function of proteins.
In the kitchen, transglutaminase — also known as meat glue — is a compelling example of enzymology. Nixtamilization is an amazing concept, and the word “nixtamilization” itself is like a really short poem.
Your best example of a food that is better because of science?
Either Pop Rocks or the clean water that comes out of my home faucet. Although I’m not sure either of them really qualify as a foodstuff.
We love comparing the gluten in bread to a network of springs. Are there any analogies you like to use to explain difficult or counter-intuitive food science concepts?
When explaining specificity in the sensory perception of food, I use the “lock in key” analogy to describe how ligands engage protein receptors. Although the analogy is imperfect, it begins to get the idea across.
How does your scientific knowledge or training impact the way you cook? Do you conduct science experiments in the kitchen?
Because I am trained as a chemist, I am fastidious about following a published protocol (recipe) and I tend to be absurdly precise about volumes. I love experimenting with food – we filed a patent application on new way to make vegan meringues. But when it comes to cooking at home I tend to be a traditionalist.
One kitchen tool you could not live without?
My home water carbonation system. I love sparkling water that I can generate from the New York City public water supply and doesn’t need to be shipped from a European spring.
Five things most likely to be found in your fridge?
Harissa, capers, preserved sour cherries, home-made stock and parmesan cheese. I get anxious if my supply of Reggiano is running low.
Your all-time favorite ingredient? Favorite cookbook?
I’m a spice guy. Right now I’m fixated on sumac and cardamom. My favorite cookbooks is “Where Flavor Was Born” by Andreas Viestad which explores how spices are used across the region of the Indian Ocean. It inspired me to visit a cardamom plantation in Kerala, India.
Other favorites include “In Nonna’s Kitchen” and “Cucina Ebraica”, because these books connect me to the memories of my mother and her mother.
Your standard breakfast?
A cup of black coffee and a baked good that I enjoy on my walk from home to my lab. New Yorkers have a bad habit of walking and eating. On the weekends, bagels and smoked salmon. No doughnuts. Never a doughnut. Maybe a beignet. But only in New Orleans.

Dana Small

Dr. Dana Small is a Professor in Psychiatry at Yale University, a Fellow at the John B. Pierce Laboratory, and visiting Professor at the University of Cologne. Her research focuses on understanding the mechanisms behind flavor preference formation, investigating the role of cognition in chemosensory perception, and determining how the modern food environment impacts brain circuitry.  She currently serves on the executive committee for the Association for Chemoreception Sciences and the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior.

See Dana Small May 14, 2014 at “How We Taste”

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What hooked you on science? On food?
I just loved biology class. It was love at first sight. I became a neuroscientist interested in flavor and food because I wanted to understand neural circuits that regulate appetitive behavior. Neuroimaging had just become available and I wanted to know if what we understood about the neurobiology of appetitive behavior in rodents applied to humans. The rodent work was based on studies where rats pressed a lever to have food pellets dispensed. I guess that means that rat chow got me hooked on food!
The coolest example of science in food?
Jelly beans because they are the perfect food to demonstrate that “taste” is mostly smell.
The food you find most fascinating?
Soufflé.
What scientific concept–food related or otherwise–do you find most fascinating?
Evolution. I am interested in understanding how the environment shapes biology—including the food environment.

Are there any analogies you like to use to explain difficult or counterintuitive food science concepts?

If I can speak of neuroscience of flavor, then I like to compare the oral capture illusion (which occurs when volatiles that are in the nose are referred to the mouth) with the visual capture that occurs when one watches TV. The sounds comes from the speakers but appears to come from the actors’ mouths.
How does your scientific knowledge or training impact the way you cook?
My scientific knowledge totally influences how I cook and eat. I avoid all artificial sweeteners and liquid calories (OK, except wine). I rarely eat processed food. I buy organic and try to eat locally. I eat a big breakfast and a light dinner. I avoid foods high in glycemic index (except on a special occasion) and search out high fat yogurt as a favorite lunch.
One kitchen tool you could not live without?
In truth I should be kept out of the kitchen!
Four things most likely to be found in your fridge?
Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries.
Your all-time favorite ingredient?
Eggplant.
Your standard breakfast?
Steel cut oats, pomegranate seeds, blueberries, raspberries, and sliced almonds. Its my biggest meal of the day. Double latte.

Ole G. Mouritsen

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Ole G. Mouritsen is a professor of molecular biophysics at the University of Southern Denmark. His research concentrates on basic science and its practical applications to biotechnology, biomedicine, gastrophysics, and gastronomy. He is an elected member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, The Danish Academy of Technical Sciences, and the Danish Gastronomical Academy. His books include Life: As a Matter of FatSushi: Food for the Eye, the Body, and the SoulSeaweeds: Edible, Available, and Sustainable and Umami. Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste.

 

See Ole G. Mouritsen April 23, 2014 at “The Science of Sushi”

What hooked you on science? On food?
Science: Curiosity, in particular in the history of natural sciences (thermodynamics, statistical physics). Food: A combination of a continuously growing interest in cooking, a liking to eat good and challenging food (in particular Japanese food), a challenge to apply science principles to food and cooking, as well a deep interest in using food and taste as a vehicle for science communication.
The coolest example of science in your food?
Access to foodstuff from the ocean as a prime source for unsaturated essential fatty acids together with the invention of cooking for producing soft food as key driving forces for human evolution. Next to that, dairy products have a wonderful science content.
The food you find most fascinating?
Almost all traditional Japanese food, because of the combination of its cultural history, deliciousness, aesthetic looks, freshness, and bounty of good stuff from the ocean.
What scientific concept–food related or otherwise–do you find most fascinating?
Self-assembly and interface-active compounds.
Are there any analogies you like to use to explain difficult or counter-intuitive  food science concepts?
I have found that a pacman analogy is a great way of making people understand the secrets of the synergy in the umami taste sensation. Not really counter-intuitive, but somewhat surprising and good to understand better what you already know.
How does your scientific knowledge or training impact the way you cook? Do you conduct science experiments in the kitchen?
I am an intuitive cook in my own kitchen and I have no patience for recipes, and hence never use cookbooks. Sometimes I ask science questions, but in most cases cooking to me is more like performing music (not that I know since I am not a musician). Also, the kitchen for me is a place for mental repair and relaxation, the foreplay being shopping at food markets.
One kitchen tool you could not live without?
My Japanese all-purpose kitchen knife.
Five things most likely to be found in your fridge?
Skyr (or yoghurt), a selection of tsukemono, marinated herring, miso, yuzu juice, and dried/smoked/aged sausages.
Your all-time favorite ingredient?
Avocado.
Favorite cookbook?
I have no favorite cookbook (don’t care much for cookbooks). My favorite food-related book is no doubt McGee’s On Food and Cooking.
Your standard breakfast?
At home, always skyr (or yoghurt), home-mixed basis muesli with no dried fruit but always with roasted buckwheat, topped with a sip of fresh orange juice and possibly some fresh blueberries, if in season. To drink, fresh orange juice with as much pulp I can get and black tea. When traveling, I am an omnivore and prefer to eat like the locals.