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Cereal science graduate student wins protein chemistry award

Cereal science doctoral candidate Maneka Malalgoda was awarded the 2017 Walter Bushuk Graduate Research Award in Cereal Protein Chemistry by the American Association of Cereal Chemists-International. Her adviser is Senay Simsek, Bert L. D’Appolonia Cereal Science and Technology of Wheat Endowed Associate Professor.

The award recognizes outstanding contributions by graduate students in basic or applied research in cereal protein chemistry. The award is presented in honor of late Walter Bushuk, a pioneer in cereal protein chemistry. Malalgoda received an honorarium at the association’s annual meeting Oct. 8-11 in San Diego, and she presented her work at the meeting. The title of her presentation was “Analysis of gliadin proteins with LC-Mass spectrometry.”

In her research, Malalgoda looked at peptides called “antigenic peptides” that cause the immune reaction related to celiac disease. She analyzed historical and modern spring wheat cultivars released from 1910 to 2013 to determine if celiac antigenicity increased over the years. Malalgoda also quantified these peptides using mass spectrometric methods. Her results suggest that modern wheat cultivars are not higher in celiac antigenicity compared to historical wheat cultivars. She also studied historical and modern durum wheat cultivars, as well as ancient wheat species, such as einkorn and emmer for antigenic peptides.

Malalgoda’s doctoral dissertation is focused on understand how pre-harvest desiccants affect starch and protein deposition in spring wheat. After graduation, she hopes to conduct further research in cereal protein and starch chemistry.

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